Young Urban Women’s Movement
Lessening the burden of women’s unpaid care work in urban Ghana
It is estimated that by 2030, 60% of the global population will live in urban areas. One of the main causes for increasing urban populations is rural to urban migration, especially in contexts of declining opportunities for income in rural areas. However for many people, this does not necessarily mean an increase in the standard of living. Experiences of urban migration are diverse. While there are possibilities for increased income, this is largely in the informal economy, particularly for women, and can expose them to new risks and vulnerabilities. For many, the reality includes low wages, delay or non-payment of wages, long working hours, deadline pressure, precarious or non-existent job security and medical insurance, sexual harassment, health and safety hazards, use of intimidation tactics and violent measures to quell dissent.
Young Urban Women’s Movement focuses on young women’s rights to decent work and sexual reproductive health in Accra and Tamale in Ghana. Through empowerment, campaigning and solidarity, they seek to increase women’s control and autonomy over their life choices, and to challenge gender norms that perpetuate inequality. The group provides solidarity for young women in urban areas and builds their confidence to find and share their voices regionally, nationally and internationally. They also work with young women to identify strategies or solutions for more immediate redress of their problems - for example, how they might be able to protect themselves from sexual and economic exploitation and how they might ‘cooperatise’ childcare as an interim solution.
One key issue for working women in urban Ghana, and indeed the rest of the world, is the burden of unpaid care work. This work includes nurturing homes and communities through child care, cooking, cleaning, shopping and other care activities, as well as child bearing, caring for household members (such as children, the elderly and workers). These tasks support the productive economy - allowing it to function – and take significant time and energy without being compensated through pay. In order to decrease the burden of this work, the Young Urban Women’s Movement advocates for increased investment in technology that decreases the time spent on care work, increase provision of public services such as childcare and elderly care and importantly social change within families and communities to redistribute care work equally between genders.
Indicating the power of bringing women together to discuss the problems they face and giving them the space to identify solutions which can then be brought to the attention of those in power, the Tamale Chapter of Young Urban Women’s Movement generated headlines in Ghana this International Women’s Day. They undertook an advocacy march demanding that Ghana’s Affirmative Action Bill be passed into law. This bill would ensure that 40% of women at all levels would be given opportunity to participate in decision-making processes.
To date, the Young Urban Women’s Movement has mobilised over 1000 young women, in 40 groups, whom have all been trained on; leadership, communication, advocacy, livelihood opportunities, sexual and reproductive health, unpaid care work, sexual harassment, labour act, women’s rights, human rights and decent work. Many women have also received training in tailoring, hairdressing and IT skills through the group. Incredibly, 50-60% of women taking part in the movement have reported reductions in their unpaid care work. Importantly, many young women, inspired by taking part, have taken part in radio discussions and public discussions about women's unpaid care burden, decent work, women friendly sexual and reproductive services and teenage pregnancy – spreading the word across the region.