Make women’s work visible!

By Zubeida Mustafa

Women have traditionally been the invisible factor in national development in Pakistan as in other Third World countries. That is because the contribution they make to the economy has predominantly, been in the form of unpaid labour that has never been counted.

It is time the women’s role in development was quantified. What better time there is for it than now. The census can easily be used to probe into the gender issue.

India is doing it with the help of UNIFEM. We can emulate them. The idea should be to draw information on the unpaid work done by women in farms and family enterprises.

The enumerator should be trained to ask questions to find out if a woman is engaged, even for a few days of the year, in activities such as farm work, rearing poultry, sale of food, making match boxes, preparing pickles and chutneys, ironing clothes, stitching and needlework at home and so on.

To obtain accurate information on this score, it is important that the enumerator should know what knowledge is being sought. It is also essential to sensitise the respondents. For this the public should be told about the nature of the information the census personnel are interested in getting from them.

It would not be a bad idea to use the television and radio to educate the public on this issue. Little slots could tell the viewers about the various jobs done by women that can be categorised as work.

The enumerators’ encounter will essentially be with the male members of the household. And the fact is that most men believe that their wives do not work. There is the case of the farmer who said his wife did not work. But when asked to describe the normal daily schedule of his wife, he gave an account of the chores she put in from four in the morning till ten in the night.

The census should try and change this outlook by listing correct data on women who work — including those who are in the unorganised sector.



Source: Dawn, 11-01-1991