GENDER AND CARE-GIVING
There comes a time in one’s life when one is very young, gets sick, gets temporarily or permanently disabled or grows old, therefore care-giving is needed at one point in everyone’s life. Care-giving is a common practice around the world, especially in Africa. It has been a very helpful practice and is never intended to harm anyone until we start to ask ourselves questions like, “have we been bias in looking at those who take care-giving roles?”, “have we been able to address the challenges in c are-giving?”, “have we looked at ways of making it more helpful and effective rather than causing harm to a particular group of people in the society?”. The more questions we ask ourselves, the more we realize that care-giving, like the knife, could either help or harm us depending on how we deal with it.
The 53rd Session of the Committee on the Status of Women (53rd CSW) meeting which was held at the UN Headquarters, New York in March 2009 dealt with “Equal Sharing of Responsibilities between Men and Women including Care-giving in the Context of HIV/AIDS”. It was revealed in this meeting that ninety percent (90%) of care-givers are girls and women. It tells us that gender plays a significant role in care-giving especially due to our culture of “all domestic responsibilities totally rest on the women”. Due to the current high figures of HIV/AIDS infection, especially on our continent , many girls have to sacrifice their schooling in order to take care of their sick relatives while the boys go to school. Women also have to sacrifice their work. This is not the best because when women have low economic power, it affects the whole family; the family needs support and partnership in order to thrive. Also with low economic power, women become vulnerable to many forms of abuse. After addressing the issues, what next needs to be done? Many people look up to government to solve the problems ALONE. Yes, government has a lion’s share of all responsibilities but their efforts must be supported by NGOs, the media and the public.
A larger group of people who practice family care-giving do not have the needed logistics, resources and information to do so effectively. Many people have agreed that family care-giving as compared to institutionalization is the best, especially in the context of HIV/AIDS. What best could be done than to improve the home situation by re-enforcing the capacities of families and providing resources, facilities for care-giving to both men and women. With the belief that political will makes implementation much easier, policies must include such issues as care work which has good inclusion of men.
At the 53rd CSW meeting, some countries shared solutions that have worked for them, which other countries could emulate in order to make care-giving a shared responsibility between men and women. One of such best practices was the introduction of a law on “paternal leave” so the men can help their wives during their pregnancy stages and in raising their babies.
The basic solution is attitudinal change. In a country where everyone is prepared to change their mindsets to suit the changing world, progress is made faster.
WE MUST SHARE RESPONSIBILITIES.