Jump to content

Caring and impacts on rights

While education is every child’s right, many girls have to drop out of school to help with domestic activities or to care for siblings if their mothers are sick or out working, or to take on care responsibilities in households which are child –headed. Even where girls do attend school, they often have to juggle their education with heavy care workloads. This reduces the time available for studying and leisure, and may leave them too exhausted to learn. For example in the Gambia girls typically sacrifice time for sleeping, studying and play in order to accommodate their care-giving responsibilities.

Like education, the right to work is an inalienable right of all human beings including equal employment opportunities, choice of profession and job security. Following the setting of the third Millennium Development Goal (MDG3) on gender equality and women’s empowerment, there has been a renewed focus on equal employment opportunities for women. What tends to be overlooked in the drive to get women into work is the fact that women who cannot afford to pay for care for their dependents are often unable to take up paid work , or are restricted to low -paid, low -status and often part -time jobs because of their unpaid care responsibilities. For example recent research in Latin America and the Caribbean showed that over half of women surveyed aged between 20 and 24 did not seek outside employment because of unpaid responsibilities.

Equally the right to health can be negatively affected by unpaid care work. There are limits to how much care a person can give without negative impacts on their own health. Often public policies can implicitly assume the free and limitless availability of unpaid care, whilst failing to take into account the major impact on the health of women caregivers and the quality of care that they are able to provide.

(Image credits: ILRI /Flickr under Creative Commons License)


The hegemony cracked: the power guide to getting care onto the development agenda.
R. Eyben / Institute of Development Studies, Sussex [ES] 2012
Numerous factors have played their part in keeping care of the development agenda: silence from government allows them to pass on the costs to families and communities rather than financing care as a public good; self-interest and pee...
Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (UN General Assembly, sixty-eighth session)
M. S. Carmona / United Nations General Assembly 2013
Despite being a major barrier to the enjoyment of full economic and social rights for women, the issue of unpaid care work has received little attention from states, and even human rights organisations. This report, submitted by the U...