Aitamaya Limbu, 36 years old and known as ‘Aitu’ in her community, participated in ActionAid’s Unpaid Care Work Programme and is a member of the Abhiyan Chautari Reflect circle.
I have learnt to write not only my name but now I am able to write an application to the Village Development Committee (VDC). Through the Reflect circle itself we were able to make VDC responsible to separate the budget of women.
The aim of the programme was to raise awareness of the time and energy women spend on unpaid care work to change perceptions that this work is not valuable.
Aitu and the other members of the Reflect circle filled out time diaries to track the time they spent on unpaid care work including cooking, cleaning, taking care of children, the ill and the elderly. They compared this to the time they have for other activities such as socialising, paid work and farming.
Aitu has a 6 year old son who studies in grade two and a husband who is a school teacher. She lives with her mother and father-in-law and her brother and sister-in-law along with her husband and son.
Everyday Aitu wakes up at 3am, even in the middle of Nepal’s cold winter, to prepare tea and breakfast for her family. She then cleans the house and takes care of the cattle.
According to her time diary, Aitu spends 4 hours of her day farming and taking care of livestock.
I have started and am still doing goat farming, orange farming and other cash crops farming from the loan I had taken out,
and she happily adds that she has even cleared her loan that she took out last year.
Aitu also spends over 4 hours a day on housework and 2 hours collecting water and firewood for her family.
At the start of the programme she only had 26 minutes a day to spend on social and cultural activities, but since joining the Reflect circle she has become much more active in the community.
She is a member of five different community groups, and now represents the women of her community on the Village Development Committee council. Aitu admits that it wouldn’t have been easy for her if her family hadn’t encouraged her to participate in social activities or helped her with the unpaid care work at home.
As she says,
They (Aitu’s in-laws) also help me more nowadays in doing the household chores. They have become understanding.
Aitu’s family also reminds her of her responsibilities at home,
Nowadays they tell me to eat first and then work after I return from my social engagements. I too understand that and start doing my [unpaid care] work since I spend a lot of time outside my home.
Aitu believes that in order to redistribute women’s unpaid care work the community also needs to find ways to reduce women’s workloads.
The women in the Reflect circle discussed the problem and identified a mill as one way of reducing the time they spent grinding and whisking grains for their households.
Due to Aitu’s constant efforts and conversations with the local government, the request for a mill was submitted by the women of Abhiyan Chautari Reflect circle and accepted by the VDC council, who agreed toallocate some money to its construction.
Aitu was selected by the group to represent them at the VDC council and is proud of the fact that she wrote the application herself with support from the Reflect facilitator.
In the council meeting, the VDC secretary told me to ‘shut up’ when I raised my hand and said that our application (for the mill in the community) had not been addressed and considered. I felt sad about how the VDC secretary treated me but I kept trying. We have learnt from the Abhiyan Chautari (Reflect circle) discussions that we should not be discouraged and should always move forward. Women, especially, must come out of their houses and participate more in the activities of the community.
She understands that the work women do every day in their homes is very important. Prior to the discussions at the Reflect circles, women didn’t appreciate the amount work they were responsible for and didn’t even consider it to be work.
Aitu feels strongly that although women are paid when they do agricultural work in fields belonging to other people, this is not enough. Women must be able to earn enough for themselves by participating in more paid work and engaging in community life.