Making care work count!

Making care work count!

Date: June 26, 2012
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Noxolo Dlamini struggles to balance her home responsibilities with caring for people living with HIV in Mbabane, Swaziland. Mukola Kaiya, a young man living with HIV, is grateful for the support of caregivers at the Chiedza Home of Hope in Harare, Zimbabwe.

In Lesotho, 17-year-old Mafafokele Maama knows how important caregivers of are, Phomolong Support Group helped him care for his ill mother, and ensure that there was food on the table and school fees were paid.
These are just three stories of the thousands of examples of care work happening across the region, work that is often unpaid, and unrecognised.  The Gender and Media Southern Africa (GEMSA) Network is launching a new campaign to ‘Make Care Work Count,À to place care work on the media and policy agendas.
On the same day that media was buzzing about the public servants strike in South Africa, care workers from the Let Us Grow project outside of Johannesburg, found themselves providing more than the usual care and support.   One of their community members went into labour and the carers had to deliver the babies, she had twins.
Yet these stories of community miracles rarely find their way into the media.   Care work is a topic rarely discussed and these vital individuals largely unacknowledged, though they mean everything to the people that they work with.
The growing prevalence of HIV/ AIDS is straining local resources. In Botswana, 90 percent of available hospital beds are thought to be occupied by people with HIV and AIDS related illnesses, while in Zimbabwe, 70 percent of hospital admissions are related to HIV and AIDS.
High levels of poverty and poor public services in Southern African countries combined with HIV and AIDS has resulted in far reaching social, health and economic consequences. Research has established that up to 90% of care due to illness is home-based.
All over the world, women carry the burden of domestic work, and in providing care to family members. HIV and AIDS have significantly increased the burden of care for many women and girls.
According to UNAIDS, two-thirds of primary caregivers in households surveyed in Southern Africa are female, one quarter of these are over 60 years of age. The South African national evaluation of home based care found 91% of caregivers were women.
Similarly, in the Midlands Province of Zimbabwe 36 of 38 volunteers working for a home -based care programme were women. The value of the time, energy and resources required to perform unpaid work is not recognised and accounted for, despite its critical contribution to the overall economy and society in general.
Research in Botswana and Mozambique suggests that more women than men are recipients of home-based care services. This could be because when men get ill women care for them, and there is no need for formal home-based care assistance; but when women get sick, men often prefer to find other women care givers to provide support.
Home based care is being seen a key strategy to care for people living with AIDS, but this means that women and girls have to take on additional responsibilities. Women’s care giving responsibilities adds to their already heavy workload and reduces the time available to do other work and their ability to participate in income generation, education, and skills building.
The burden of care work on women further intensifies the feminisation of poverty, affecting entire families when women’s time caring for the ill takes away from other productive tasks within the household. As people who are economically productive become ill and die of AIDS related illnesses, older women become the sole carers and providers for their adult children and orphaned grandchildren.
Young girls leave school to provide home based care and face reduced prospects for decent work opportunities. For example, in Swaziland school estimates suggest enrolment rates to have fallen by thirty-six percent, with girls most affected.
As countries cut back and privatise health services, health and welfare services shift to the home. The costs of care do not disappear. Rather they are borne by the household and particularly women.
Launched by GEMSA in collaboration with care work organisations in eight Southern African countries including Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe,  the Making Care Work Count campaign will contribute towards developing policies and legislation aimed at providing support to care givers through government support.
Another key outcome of the campaign is putting unpaid care work on the media agenda through the collection and placement of first hand accounts of carers, people being cared for and others in the mainstream media. An ongoing advocacy campaign to put unpaid care work on the public agenda is the third and critical element of the campaign.
In all eight countries, the campaign will ensure that the GEMSA slogan MAKING EVERY VOICE COUNT AND COUNTING THAT IT DOES! is realised by involving care workers in the reference groups and in every aspect of the campaign. Their voices and experiences will lead and define this campaign.
To quote Rose Thamae, Director of the Let us grow project: “I am tired of this word volunteer, we care for our patients and we work hard to make them comfortable. This is real work and should get real pay.À
Kubi Rama is the CEO of the Gender and Media Southern Africa (GEMSA) Network, the organisation launching the “Making Care Work CountÀ campaign. This article is part of a special series created for the campaign, and is being carried by the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service as a partnership in the campaign.

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