International Women's Day: the big issues remaining for women's rights | ActionAid UK

It's International Women's Day tomorrow - and it's got me thinking about the big issues that remain in the fight for women’s rights across the world. Street harrassment, violence against women and girls and economic inequality are widespread. 

Sandhya, 31, is part of a project working on unpaid care in Nepal.
Sandhya, 31, is part of a project working on unpaid care in Nepal.

There's so much to do, but the issue that comes to my mind is women's role in unpaid care. So often it still falls to women. It's tasks like housework, childcare, and caring for sick or elderly people - and it has a huge effect on women's lives and work.

In the last few days many column inches have been dedicated to how childcare in the UK now costs more than mortgage repayments. And attention has also been cast on news that the UK has fallen to 18th place in the Women in Work Index. At the top of the index are Nordic countries where, the study states, 'childcare and household tasks are shared more equally between parents'.

Unpaid care limits women's choices

Unpaid care is clearly still a big issue in the UK. Here women spend on average 258 minutes per day doing unpaid care, compared to men's 141 minutes. But it is an even bigger issue in many of the poor countries where ActionAid works where, despite the enormous value of women's work caring for others, fetching water, and feeding the family, this contribution is taken for granted. Why it falls to women to do all of this is something that is rarely questioned.

Unpaid care takes time - and it limits women's choices, the enjoyment of their rights and their freedom to participate in their communities and get a job. It locks women into a cycle of poverty. 

ActionAid is working to tackle the issue of unpaid care across many of the countries we work in. Projects in Nepal, Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda see communities tracking the amount of time spent on unpaid care work in time diaries. Sandhya, shown in the photo here, keeps such a diary. The diaries have made the work more valued and recognised - and men in the community have started sharing the burden.

There are many issues wrapped up in women’s rights. Unpaid care is just one of them, but it is an extremely important issue and ActionAid UK will be working more on it in the coming months.

International Women's Day

Working to improve women’s rights is central to ActionAid’s approach. We have lots planned to celebrate International Women’s Day – from a rally in Bangladesh addressing violence against women and girls; and an awareness-raising workshop around women’s rights to land in the DRC, to a radio show in Nigeria discussing the national unpaid care framework.

Here in the UK we will be commemorating the day at the Women of the World Festival which is showing a play called ‘Nirbhaya’ about the brutal rape of a young woman in Delhi at the end of last year. The attack sparked global news coverage. We have created an installation at the event for people to add their  messages. It's there to help break the silence surrounding violence against women and girls.

There is lots of exciting and important work around women’s rights going on around the world. I wonder how far we will have come, especially on the issue of unpaid care, by International Women’s Day next year.