Khadija Abdallah, a 54-year-old mother of five, dedicates almost her entire day to unpaid care work.
A few years ago, when her youngest daughter was still an infant, she would strap her to her back while she and her husband worked hard on their farm. Upon returning home, Khadija would manage several chores at once – preparing lunch, doing the housework, and looking after her infant – all while her husband took a short break.
For Khadija, like many other women in her village in the Singida region of northern Tanzania, the burden of care work traditionally falls upon their shoulders. “Every morning, I start with cleaning my house and the surroundings, then I prepare tea for my family. If it’s not a firewood day, I go to my small vegetable garden to weed and water. Then, when I return, I must prepare lunch, fetch water to do laundry, and then start preparing dinner,” says Khadija.
According to the Tanzania Household Budget Survey (2017-18), women in the country spend four hours a day on unpaid care and household chores, compared to one hour a day for men.
This includes unpaid domestic and care duties such as cooking, childcare, and other household chores. In Singida, women also devote approximately three to four hours daily to seeking fuel and labouring with inefficient cooking methods, amounting to 1,500 hours a year.
“Twice a week, we have to walk miles from our homes, to fetch firewood. Along with our daily household responsibilities, it means we don’t have many opportunities to participatein community and developmental activities,” says Khadija.
To address the disproportionate care burden on women and girls, like those in the Singida region where Khadija lives, UN Women in Tanzania is implementing the “Transformative Approaches to Recognize, Reduce and Redistribute Unpaid Care Work programme in Ikungi District, Singida Region,” funded by the Government of Canada.
The programme aligns with Tanzania’s Generation Equality commitments on Economic Justice and Rights to reduce women’s unpaid care burden, and the Cooking Energy Action Plan (CEAP) introduced in 2022 aims to boost access to modern cooking solutions for women from 16% to 75% by 2030.
As part of the programme interventions in the Ikungi district of Singida, UN Women partnered with the Tanzania Gender and Sustainable Energy Network (TANGSEN) to raise awareness on the use of energy-efficient stoves through skills training and awareness creation for women and provide energy-saving stoves that retain heat better and emit less carbon dioxide.
In the recent commemorations of the International Day of Care and Support in Ikungi, 70 women received energy-saving stoves and more women will receive them as the project implementations continue.
Speaking at the event, Ms. Lilian Mwamdanga, the Programme Specialist for Women’s Economic Empowerment at UN Women Tanzania highlighted that empowering women with fuel-efficient cooking stoves is a significant step towards achieving gender equality and sustainable development.
“By reducing the care burden for women and girls, we are paving the way for them to actively participate in development processes, transforming their roles from mere beneficiaries to agents of great leaders and decision-makers. We are not only promoting a healthier environment but also fostering a world where women and girls can realize their full potential,” said Ms. Mwamdanga.
“I have suffered with smoke for years, I even had to start cooking outside, because of the smoke that would cover the house, these stoves will really help us. I hope every woman in the village will also be able to benefit from the training and get a stove,” says Khadija.
The energy-saving stoves significantly reduce cooking hours, freeing up valuable time for women to engage in income-generating activities. Additionally, they allow the women to stretch the use of firewood collected in a single day to last up to four months.
“Thanks to the training we received, we’re also seeing men increasingly take on some of the household work at home. My husband, for instance, has started helping me with small chores around the house, like washing his own clothes and going to water the garden, said Khadija.
“I am glad that this project has come to our village. You know, nowadays, when you see a father carrying a child to the clinic, it’s no longer as surprising as it would have been in the past, which is a good thing. Men should learn to share the care work.”
To ensure the disproportionate care burden on women and girls is fully addressed, UN Women in Tanzania is implementing two additional programs. A four-year programme titled “Strengthening Women’s and Girls’ Meaningful Participation, Leadership, and Economic Rights at the Local Levels,” is funded by Finland, that aims to empower women and girls, enhancing their participation in leadership and promoting the realization of their economic rights, including by addressing unpaid care and domestic work; And, the programme “Accelerating Progress Towards Rural Women’s Economic Empowerment” (JP RWEE) Phase II, a five-year joint project supported by the Governments of Sweden and Norway, that focuses on the economic empowerment of rural women.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UN Women – Africa.