The pressure of household chores on women has increased by several hours during the ongoing pandemic in the country, according to a survey.
Although the government took initiative to provide financial assistance and loans to the poor people and various professionals, no special initiative was taken for women during the time.
The surveyors recommended that separate government financial assistance and loans be provided for women. They also recommended making it easier for women to get loans. The government can provide loans to women through various private micro-credit schemes.
According to the survey, at least one from 47.49% households in urban and rural areas lost their jobs, or was denied employment, during the corona period. Around 83.3% of the urban population and 92.5% of the rural population have lost their jobs and fallen into economic crisis during this time.
Findings of the survey, titled 'Rapid Analysis of Care Work during COVID Pandemic in Bangladesh', and recommendations were presented at a webinar hosted by The Formal Recognition of Women's Unaccounted Work Forum on Saturday.
According to the survey, the income of 68% of the country's people, earning Tk5,000 to Tk10,000, has decreased. This means that these people have become poorer during the pandemic. The income of 73% of those earning Tk10,000 to Tk15,000 has also decreased. It has been observed that although the condition of the agriculturally dependent families is somewhat better, the condition of the working class people is worse.
As per the survey, 77.78% of women led families have fallen into financial crisis. Most of them are from the informal sector. Many women have lost their jobs, besides facing abnormally increased household work pressure.
According to the survey, women's work in urban areas has increased by 128% during the pandemic while 85% of working women have spent a lot of time doing unpaid household chores, more than four hours a day.
Before the pandemic, 71.5% of housewives typically spent three to five hours on unpaid housework. During the corona period, the working hours of 37.8% of them increased. During this time, the participation of men in household chores has also increased. The pressure of household chores on women has increased so much that in some cases three to five hours of work has increased to seven or eight hours of work.
The survey was conducted by Sharmind Nilormi, Associate Professor, Department of Economics, Jahangirnagar University, at the initiative of the 5-member forum 'Formal Recognition of the Women's Unaccounted Work'. The member organisations of this forum are ActionAid Bangladesh, Bangladesh Nari Pragati Sangstha (BNPS), Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Oxfam and Foundation for People.
Saber Hossain Chowdhury, member of Parliamentary Committee on the Ministry of Planning, was present as the chief guest on the occasion while Shoko Ishikawa, country representative of UN Women Bangladesh, attended as the special guest. CPD Executive Director Dr Fahmida Khatun, and Deputy Secretary for Finance Division Mehedi Masuduzzaman took part in the webinar as discussants on the survey.
Rokeya Kabir, executive director of BNPS, Sarah Kabir, country director of Action Aid Bangladesh, and Sir Hall, manager of Women Empowerment and Care Programme of UK-based Oxfam, among others, addressed the discussion presided over by Executive Director of Manusher Jonyo Foundation Shaheen Anam.
The survey was started in November 2020 and ended in January 2021. Although the survey was conducted among people of different professions and ages in cities and villages of nine districts of the country, considering the context of the survey, the number of female respondents was more.
Among the participants of the survey, 82.78% think that the epidemic has affected their mental health. The economic crisis of the pandemic has created mental stress and weakened people physically. Half of the rural women respondents feel mentally weak. Of the rest, 20% think they are mentally very disturbed while 23% of the urban women consider themselves mentally very weak.
According to the survey, 54.25% of the rural population received all kinds of government and private assistance, compared to 22.97% in the city.
At the event, Saber Hossain Chowdhury said, "We want to add the invaluable labour of women to the SNA (System of National Accounts) of the next financial year. We have to find out the monitoring value of the work women are doing to protect natural resources."
In her speech, Shaheen Anam said that the day when we would learn to think of women's work as work, not as responsibility, the value of women's work will be added.