6.12.10

Future uncertain – a note on Finnish Independence Day


“Life was better in the colonial days” – a statement I’ve heard several times. It’s hard to hear that said for two reasons among several

The first is that Zambians as a people know so little about the colonial history of Zambia. We learn a few paragraphs in our history books and a few grainy ZBC documentaries. We look with fondness on the infrastructure of colonial days – the roads, schools, hospitals – without doing the math – calculating for whom that infrastructure was meant – and without considering the motives of builders.

6.11.10

Peekaboo! - Artists and Injustice

Within two weeks I have been to two art exhibitions, one in Lusaka of local artists and print makers and one in Helsinki featuring South African art. While I understand that artists have different focii and diverse inspiration, the contrast that struck me was how the Lusaka showing – set in one of the poorest countries in the world with entrenched gender inequality and growing economic inequality, raging homophobia, had negligible reference to these issues and how “the best of” Zambian art offered trifling opposition to the condition of our country and culture.   

13.8.10

Putting the "men" in menstruation

Putting the "men" in menstruation

Sexual equality and the NCC draft Zambian constitution

published at http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/66657

The National Constitution Conference (NCC) has produced a draft constitution for Zambia. The NCC has been a long, political and highly contested process. The process attempts to merge the varying interests of a diverse society. However, as in any contest, the more powerful the player, the more likely she or he is to win. In a country where sexual equality – i.e. the rights women, girls and sexual minorities – is still far from reality the NCC draft constitution offered an opportunity to enshrine sexual equality into the Bill of Rights. A study of the draft finds that though women’s rights appear to be incorporated, the NCC has not gone far enough to empower women. Furthermore, not only has the
NCC not decriminalised homosexuality but it has explicitly deprived lesbians, gays, bi-sexuals and transgender persons (LGBT) of their rights.

3.8.10

All Work and No Pay

By Mwila Agatha Zaza

Malindi wakes up at 5.30 each morning, and works shifts on some days until 20.30. She is a single mother in what she describes as a good job in a hotel. Because of her job she says “no one can tell her what to buy or what to eat”

Malindi is bringing up three children on her own. She finds time to cook and clean for them, working shifts for 6 days a week does not exempt her from her duties, in fact it makes her more conscious of the need to carry them out. Additionally there’s the stream of funerals, wedding and kitchen parties that must be organised and financed, which she does because “she feels like helping.”

Malindi unequivocally describes herself as independent.

Independent is a word few women in Zambia would apply to themselves.

First, Malindi and her female co-workers are part of a minority of Zambian women who are in full time, formal employment with what they describe as “a fair boss.” Second, the additional work that she does, in her home and for her family, does not impinge on her ability to provide for her family.

However, if we look at Malindi’s daily schedule, like most women in the world, a great deal of her day is spent working; whether paid - at her place of work, or unpaid – in her home and in her community.

It is a universally documented phenomenon that women work more than men. Of total labour time, men do 47%, women do 53%. Which since women make up 51% of the world’s population does not seem entirely unfair.

However, 75% of men’s labour time is paid while only 34% of women’s time spent working is paid.

Time spent working?

People – women, men, boys and girls work. They might work in the household (home) or outside. A home can include small farms, home industries that may be for subsistence or for profit.

A variety of jobs can be done at home if we look at consultants, writers or designers. These can be from personal choice and very well paid. However, most people that work at home are women with low skills, especially those with young children, and people with disabilities, who work for very little money and have no income protection or benefits.

Work outside the home includes the public and private sector; workplaces can be factories, shops, banks and even includes working in household outside your own. In fact, the women we spoke to indicate that in order to work in paid employment they are dependent on either paid workers or live in relations, always girls, to help in their homes.

Women in the workplace are subject to discrimination and abuse, far more than men as documented by the ILO. Women are also underrepresented in the formal economy where government and international regulations are more likely to be applied.

However, women’s largest contribution to the Zambian and the world economy is in unpaid labour. If this unpaid labour was given monetary value it would amount to a staggering 70% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product, meaning this work would be worth 70% of all the money the entire world earns in a single year!

Without unpaid labour, the economy would not be able to function. However, most people think that work that is unpaid is unproductive or doesn’t count as work.

Unpaid work in the home includes seemingly banal, but actually, crucial activities such as picking up a child who has fallen, brushing the teeth of an elderly person as well as all the cooking, cleaning or repairs that may be needed in a household. Unpaid work outside the home can also includes community “work” such as organising weddings. This work is not as negotiable as it may seem. As Loveness, Malindi’s co-worker, says “you are expected to contribute” and “you are supposed to take care of sick parents” and one should expect some form of sanctions if you don’t.

Two-thirds of women’s work is unpaid, so…

Vivien, the Club Manager, at Malindi’s place of work, is single and able to work long hours in the formal economy. Not only does this mean she has her own income but also that she is able to plan and invest for her future whether she chooses to marry of remain single.

Vivien is not bound by large amounts of unpaid work. Simply put - there are only so many hours in a day. Hours spent on unpaid work mean fewer hours available for paid work. When so much time (66%) is spent on unpaid work it lessens a woman’s economic security. A common example, time spent raising children is time spent away from the work force, reducing the number of years at work and reducing retirement benefits, because the time spent on children is not recognised as work. The situation for single mothers such as Malindi and Loveness is particularly precarious as they are unable to rely on another partner to bring in an income.

The lack of recognition of unpaid work is a significant contributor to women's higher rates of poverty the world over.

But, why do women do all the work?

Quite simply, it is what we learn.

In a process called socialisation (which does not mean going out with friends), we are taught overtly and covertly “women’s work.” Unless the families in which we are raised make a specific effort to change millennia of defined women and men’s roles, we grow up watching our mother’s cook, clean and look after children.

Men, meanwhile, leave home every morning to do “important” things such as farming commercial crops, running a legally registered business or going to a job that is recognised as important by attracting remuneration.

Malindi, Vivien and Loveness despite different backgrounds and current lifestyles all agreed on the concept of “woman’s work”

This is not, as many people might argue, a Zambian or third world phenomenon. Even with changing economies and social structure, the concept of women work remains very distinct especially within the home. A report in the Republic of Ireland’s Independent Newspaper on June 19 2008, revealed that women in that country do72% of a household’s unpaid work.

And so…

Who does the work and how much they’re paid is an issue about women’s economic and social subjugation. For instance women are the main agricultural producers in Zambia, but women do not typically control family income. To exacerbate their situation polygamy is practiced among small scale farmers to increase the number of unpaid workers in a household – women and children – who, to make things worse, are subject to customary law regarding land and inheritance which favour men.

This injustice is repeated for women who get paid for their work, but mostly in the informal sector. The lack of regulation means their rights can be disregarded without appeal; they may work without pay and be dismissed when pregnant. Long hours may mean their homes and children are left in the care of less competent carers usually young girls or elderly women.

The unfortunate reality for many women across the world is that they will work their entire lives and never have any form of economic security. They will never receive retirement benefits or pensions or even have rights to the land on which they work for free or ownership of the home they maintain without pay.

(published 2009)