IDS contributes to first High-Level Report on Women’s Economic Empowerment

1 December 2016

Unique evidence from IDS and partners incorporated into the first High Level Report on Women’s Economic Empowerment highlights the centrality of unpaid care work to women’s economic empowerment and their opportunities in the world of work.

Still from the film Who Cares - Unpaid care work, poverty and women's / girl's human rights

IDS’s Deepta Chopra said: ‘It is heartening to see the acknowledgement this report has given to the vital issue of care work. We have been working for the last five years to make this issue visible to policymakers and practitioners, and warmly welcome the report’s recommendations for addressing unpaid care to ensure optimal and sustainable economic empowerment for women and girls.’

Care is a valuable activity that is essential to supporting the economy. It is often, however, overlooked and neglected in policy and programming. The UN High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, established in March 2016 with the aim of progressing work on women’s economic empowerment in relation to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), provided a valuable opportunity to explore approaches and experiences of changing how care is understood provided.

Thanks in part to the timely evidence submitted by IDS and key partners, the first report of the High Level Panel is helping to ensure key development actors recognise the linkages between the ability of women to become economically empowered and women’s heavy and unequal responsibility for  unpaid care work, especially where public and private care services are inaccessible.

Providing fast-track evidence on the care economy

In response to the formation of the High Level Panel, IDS, the International Development Research Centre, Canada (IDRC) and Oxfam coordinated a call for evidence on what works on transforming dynamics in the care economy. The call built on ongoing research and aimed to inform the High Level Panel on successful  interventions from across the world that have worked to provide recognition to care services, and to  look at ways of reducing the heavy and unequal responsibility for women, and redistributing care  work from women and girls to across the household, the state and the private sector.

The call was open for over 3 weeks from 16 May to 8 June 2016, and received around 45 responses from researchers, NGOs, women’s networks, worker’s organisations and national movements across a range of geographical regions. The respondents were asked to complete a questionnaire giving details of the programmes, the strategies used and challenges encountered, and the aims and outcomes in respect of care, with follow up questions to provide more background where necessary.

Collaboration on what works

As part of the call for evidence on care, IDRC, IDS and Oxfam also convened two webinars to discuss the scale of the challenge, what progress has been made, and to ask why it has stalled. A broad range of discussion around care issues, such as private sector responsibilities, community engagement, and elderly care was sparked by the webinar presentations. (You can view them on YouTube: Session 1 and Session 2).

In further collaborative work in preparation for the High Level Panel briefing, Deepta Chopra joined the UK Secretary of State for International Development to participate in a roundtable meeting organised by the UK Department for International Development and the Gender and Development Network on 18 May 2016.

Clear messages for the Panel

Findings from the call for evidence and discussions at the webinars and roundtable illustrated a clear need for the High Level Panel to focus on addressing unpaid care particularly through public service provision (childcare, piped water, access roads); time and labour saving equipment (clean cooking stoves) and infrastructure (access roads to markets); provision of decent (including flexible) work for both men and women; and addressing cultural norms about gender and care provision.

IDS researchers are therefore delighted to see these themes reflected in detail in the report. The High Level Panel will be critical in achieving the SDGs by 2030 and the next key step that we all eagerly await is to see how these report recommendations can be driven forward. 

Image: Still from the film 'Who Cares'