Housework has economic value – women’s activist Andaiye

Published on 2011-05-03 12:30:51 in News

The work women do at home needs to be valued like any other income generating activity according to women’s rights activist Andaiye.

She articulated the position on Friday at an event organised by the University of Guyana Students for Social Change (UGSSC) at the insitution’s Turkeyen Campus. The activity was held under the theme Poverty, Development and Labour in Guyana.

“Our argument is first of all this thing called housework and this thing that is called care giving is work. It is true that women raise their children and look after their children out of love; it is also true that things they do out of love is work,” the Red Thread representative said.

According to Andaiye, what that work amounts to is the “production and reproduction of the whole labour force.”  Further, she argued, in addition to the social meaning people generally ascribe to it, there is also an economic underpinning since those activities are fundamental to the production of wealth.

However, she noted that there is also a social cost attached to that work which many mothers in Guyana are paying heavily. Andaiye stated that there are many women working in one part of the country, or even in the Caribbean, to earn wages while their families live elsewhere.

Additionally, she singled out the large number of women working as security guards and the exploitations they endure at the hands of their employers.

“The point we’re making in relation to the social cost of that is that if you oblige people who are parents, and if you oblige above all mothers, to work in that way then you must know that those people are not paying a great deal of attention to children. What they are doing is neglecting children in order to be able to feed children and then the whole society pays for the results of that,” Andaiye stated.

According to her, the blame should fall squarely on the way the economy is organised whereby there is a huge informal sector where people are “super-exploited.” She also noted the divisions in the labour movement along the lines of race and politics and called on the movement to address the issue of gender.

Andaiye stated that the unions have turned their backs on a potential source of a tremendous amount of power by ignoring the informal sector which is largely made up of women.

“Try to imagine Guyana for the next week with every housewife on strike, with every mother on strike, with every market vendor on strike, with every shop assistant on strike; we could close Guyana down from those locations that are presently so disrespected,” she declared.

The UGSSC is an on-campus society which states one of its purpose as being “to agitate on and of campus for changes that are conducive to the accomplishment of the age-old ideals of freedom, justice and equality.”

It also lists social research and the development of practical and implementable solutions for social problems among its intended objectives.


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