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Breaking the Kitchen Stereotype

Wednesday, November 15, 2017 - 13:47

A married father of two children, Boabi Tenga lives in the Nangodi community in the Upper East region of Ghana.

ActionAid and its partners have been advocating for the recognition, reduction and redistribution of the burden of Unpaid Care Work (UCW) on women in the Nangodi and many rural communities in the region and other operational areas. 

Unpaid Care Work refers to workload burden placed on women. It is one of the major issues affecting women, especially those from poor, rural communities like Nangodi. To address this issue in the community, ActionAid and its partner in the region, BONATADU, engage in a series of community sensitisation exercises and workshops on UCW to highlight the need for men and boys to support women by also contributing to the task of household activities.

Boabi, like most inhabitants of Nangodi, has been educated on how UCW negatively affects women’s ability to engage in economic activities and live an empowered life.

According to Boabi, he was reluctant to join the advocacy against Unpaid Care Work.

Initially when I heard people talk about UCW, I always gave the excuse that it is a waste of time for a man to engage in household activities.

The Nangodi community, like most communities in Ghana, is highly patriarchal with women and men designated gender-specific roles that are steeped in cultural practices.

These are stereotypes that are difficult to break.

File 38629Boabi actively participating in the cooking competition in Nangodi

Reluctant to contribute to household and care activities, which are regarded as “women’s work”, Boabi had a change of heart after a friend confided in him on how helping his wife with UCW had reduced the burden of being the sole provider for his family.

I began to take it seriously when a friend in a nearby community told me about how he was benefiting from supporting his wife at home and how she was also bringing in money to feed their family. I told myself I would give it a try and see the results.

Boabi wanted to see for himself how helping his wife in household chores and care work would change her life.

I sat down with my wife and we listed all the UCW activities that she engages in, then we shared the roles between the two of us. My roles involved helping her with cooking, sweeping of the house, cleaning and washing of dishes whiles she also continued with bathing the children and getting them ready for school, as well as washing of the clothes. Sometimes, we also changed roles and she would have to sweep the house and wash the dishes while I bathed the children and got them ready for school, and did the laundry.

It was not long before Boabi begun to see improvements in their livelihood.

Surprisingly, she was able to make some time to go to the market and sell, engage in group farming, and attend important community and group meetings.

Aside the amount of time and burden Boabi had reduced on his wife by getting involved and contributing to care work, he also noticed that their stream of income was increasing with his wife’s ability to spend more time engaging in group farming and dressmaking.

Currently, she is learning a trade in tailoring. Now, my wife is able to sell and buy ingredients and foodstuff for the house. Before, the responsibility of bringing money home for food was solely on me and I am happy that my wife is now able to also do same and provide support.

Their supportive lifestyle has also benefited their children, Boabi confides.

Due to this, we have enough money saved to support the educational needs of our two children.

It was no surprise then that when the Nangodi Women’s Group decided to hold a Men’s Cooking Competition to highlight the issue of UCW during the inauguration of their ActionAid-supported Child Care centre, Boabi was one of the five men selected to be part of the contest.

File 38627Boabi actively participating in the cooking competition in Nangodi

Engaging in a number of sensitisation workshops, the Nangodi Women’s Group are an active part of ActionAid and its partner, BONATADU’s, campaign and advocacy efforts to encourage recognition of Unpaid Care Work and change beliefs and perceptions that demean women as sole providers of care work.

ActionAid’s Unpaid Care Work campaign forms part of the Promoting Opportunities for Women’s Empowerment and Rights (POWER) project, which is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Nangodi Men’s Cooking Competition

About 200 community members, members from women’s groups, traditional leaders and the men attended the Men’s Cooking competition.

The main objective of the cooking contest was to paint a vivid picture on how men can contribute to care work, as well as use the occasion to sensitise community members and men on how their fellow colleagues were benefiting by contributing to reducing the burden of UCW on women and girls.

Most importantly, it showcased the ability of men to provide household care, breaking the stereotype that, “only women can cook”. It also gave the opportunity for ActionAid and the men to challenge culturally-ascribed gender roles and responsibilities.

One major outcome of the cooking contest is the involvement of men and boys in household activities such as cooking, cleaning, washing, fetching of water, etc.

By so doing, we aim at involving men in Unpaid Care Work by encouraging them to publicly declare their support as champions of reducing the burden of UCW and role models for other men to emulate.

Identifying and creating effective solutions to Unpaid Care Work

Through regular meetings, the Nangodi Women’s Group identified men’s reluctance to support them in household chores as one of the challenges they face in their attempt to make more time to engage in economic activities.

Hence, the group decided to use the opportunity of the launch of their Child Care Centre to organise the Men’s Cooking Competition. Prior to the contest, the Nangodi Women’s Group had been engaging in community sensitisation activities on addressing UCW.

With ActionAid providing support with food stuff and other tools for the eventful day, Boabi, along with four other men selected by the Nangodi Women’s Group, prepared several local delicacies such as “Tuo Zaafi (TZ)”, “Tubani”, “Wasila”, and other local cuisines to the delight and admiration of their community members.

The men, after the competition, sensitised the entire community about the need for men to support in sharing household roles so as to help reduce the burden on women. This, they advocated, in effect will help women to be able to engage in other economic activities like farming, trading, weaving etc. to support the family’s upkeep.

Boabi is now a firm believer of men partaking in care work and sharing the burden of UCW.

I am now a passionate advocate for reducing unpaid care work load on women and I spend time engaging with my fellow men in and outside the community on why they should be assisting their wives and partners with household duties. Thank you so much ActionAid and BONATADU for the enlightenment and support.