Friday, February 1, 2019

Care - It is more than Washing Dishes and Cooking

Care is more than Washing Dishes and Cooking!

Naomi Shadrack

Care is a relationship of interdependence between a care provider and a care receiver. Every human being needs care at all moments of life. We need care from morning when we wake up to evening when we retire to our beds. One cannot survive without care!
What has motivated me to write this blog post are discussions on radios and televisions on some aspects of care. I feel they reduce the weight that care must be given. This is especially the case when women are asked: 'Do you cook at your home? Do you wash clothes?' As good as they seem to be, these types of questions are incomplete as they generate answers that do not address the fundamental question of care and its multiple dimensions.
At the core level, care involves interaction between people with varying needs. It may be direct or indirect, physical or mental - and even emotional. Direct care in the domestic domain necessitates the presence of the care provider in which he or she may wash clothes, cook food, carry water, feed children, nurse the sick, attend to the elderly, and ensure the wellbeing of the whole family. Indirect care may involve sending money to cater for the provision of water, school fees, and source of energy for a household or coordination, planning, and supervision of physical care providers. Both forms of care involve a certain level of mental and/or emotional labour. 
So, care is not simply about washing dishes and cooking food!
It is about time that we start approaching care from a broader perspective. Instead of asking influential people whether they perform certain activities associated with care, we can ask them how they care. Asking a woman minister in the government whether she cook at home or not and using that as the reference for all Tanzanian women is undervaluing care. It also masks the burden of gendered care. We can broaden the discussion by focusing on which care activities, who provides them, how does one provide them, and what resources does one has access for the care. 
Such questions will tell us, as a country, how hard we are supposed to work to ensure everyone gets decent care. It will ensure that we are including care as a policy priority in our national development models and plans. This will help us to lift the gendered burden of unpaid care at the household and related levels in our society.
Applauding a well-educated or successful business woman because she says she cooks or wash dishes and clothes at home without an explanation on how she does so overlooks the underlying class dynamics of care in our society. Does that woman walk more than four kilometres to fetch water and firewood for cooking? Or does she have all kitchen appliances surrounding her in a neat kitchen? Could it be that she can cook with a rice cooker while browsing the internet and put clothes in a washing machine that keeps her nails clean and well-done? What if she delegates most of the care work to others through paying them as domestic workers or relatives?
 This is not a woman who has to be a reference on addressing care provision and related issues in a stratified society such as ours.
Care provision is a very important subject for the sustainability of our society. It is an ever-present reality in our lives as it cross-cuts the entire set of public policies. Provision of care involves, but is not limited to, asking: Is there a school? Do children go to school? Are they well-fed in the school? How do they reach school? Who provides water in school? What is the cost of being in school? 
As such, care involves the way communities are structured and socialised. Care influences the economic wellbeing of both the care providers and recipients. Full-time care providers find it hard to engage in economic activities necessary for growth of their income and families. Hence, care has to be streamlined into household budgeting and financing. By addressing issues of care in a broader perspective, we will optimise the different economic initiatives that both the government and other stakeholders are undertaking.
So, if one wants to address or get a model for care provision in the households, bear in mind that this is not a question of 'do you wash or cook?' Rather, it is a deeper question of the what, when, where, who and how does one care. It is a question of the cost(s) of care!

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