03 April 2011

Wasting Women's Time

Sometimes it seems that women in the West think that childcare is the biggest burden/responsibility/expectation placed on women.  And it is in some parts of the world.  Childcare is something that still eats up a huge amount of time, and usually it’s usually women’s time.  The argument is that if women didn’t have to spend so much time taking care of their children then they’d have more time to go out and work and make a difference in the world.

I don’t think so.  It’s not childcare that’s tying up women’s time in most parts of the world; it’s simply the matter of keeping a house running.  I suppose that if women had no children then the housework would be simpler, but that’s not really a reasonable solution.  Even if a woman has one or two children in a less-developed part of the world, she going to be spending a huge amount of time just maintaining the basics.

Here’s what I’d like to see for every women, in order of importance:

A safe, dry, and clean place to live, of course, and enough food for her family.  Those are obvious.

-Clean hot and cold water available at least half the day on a fairly reliable schedule.  The water needs to be accessible and flowing from a faucet or some sort of spigot where food is prepared and where people’s bodies are cleaned.  There also needs to be a simple and efficient way for the used water to disappear when it’s been used. No woman should have to haul liters and liters of water in and out of her house on a daily basis.

-A reliable way to cook food.  This will vary hugely in different parts of the world, but I think no woman should be without a reasonably simple way to prepare food for her family.  There are a lot of things that can make food preparation easier, but being able to cook is a big one.

-Reliable heating that doesn’t require any woman to chop wood or shovel coal or to spend hours hunting for fuel.  I also don’t think that any woman should have to use an unhealthy source of heating.

I honestly think these are bigger needs even than education for women.  If food, water, and adequate shelter aren’t available, then education isn’t going to happen, for mothers or daughters.

After these things, education is next.

I’d also like every woman to have access to a washing machine.  Laundry sucks up so much time and labor that could be put to better use.

That's it.  It's really not a long list, and women in the West have all these things and so much more.  Women everywhere need them. Women will never be able to change the world if all of their time is spent just maintaining daily life and right now a huge number are doing just that.  We are wasting a tremendous resource.

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