Housework is work
Recognizing unpaid care work and women’s labour in South Asia
COLOMBO – A two-day regional conference on recognizing unpaid care work and women’s labour in South Asia concluded in Colombo on October 21, highlighting the importance of recognizing women’s work in Sri Lanka and in the region.
Organized by the Women and Media Collective (WMC) in Collaboration with the Social Scientist’s Association (SSA), the Regional Conference on Equality and Equity in Recognizing Unpaid Care Work and Women’s Labour in South Asia, was the first ever discourse on unpaid care work (UCW) to take place in Sri Lanka.
The Conference brought together academics, activists, and advocates from Sri Lanka and from South Asian countries, as well as district-level activists, government officials, and journalists from across Sri Lanka, for a lively discourse on the need to recognize women’s work/labour.
Dr Deepta Chopra, Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, UK, delivering the Keynote Speech highlighted the importance of using the Unpaid Care Diamond Framework and operationalizing the 3 ‘R’s of UCW, ‘Recognize, Reduce and Redistribute’, and the additional ‘R’ of the ILO framework on UCW. The evaluation of feminists conceptualizing UCW within a developmental framework that is applicable especially to countries in South Asia, was very well received.
Member of Parliament, academic and rights activist Dr Harini Amarasuriya in her keynote speech on the second day of the Conference, impressed on the on the need to recognize UCW in Sri Lanka and the importance of integrating a critical understanding of the issue, particularly within the socio-economic and political crises facing Sri Lanka.
The Regional Conference centred on five-panel discussions, each focusing on a specific area of study. These included Gendered Economic Relations and Household Care Work, Measuring and Valuing Unpaid Care Work, Social Media discourses around UCW, UCW and Households of Overseas Migrant Workers, Women Cooperative Members, and Paid and Unpaid care work in the North, Sexual Identities, and Unpaid Care Work as well as the impact of Covid on UCW in terms of the home.
A documentary film titled ‘Working Hours’ produced by Sharni Jayawardena, capturing the lives of women who were part of the WMC and SSA study, was also screened at the Conference.