February 27, 2009

Anne Walker, Renee Black & Joeyta Bose







The 53rd Commission on the Status of Women presents NGOs with a unique advocacy space where they can parley with governments and push for policy positions and prescriptions, on the theme of “the equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving, in the context of HIV/AIDS.” As a clear understanding of the issues and a solid information base are essential for successful advocacy, this globalnet synthesizes the contents and recommendations of two vital reports on the theme – the report of the Expert Group Meeting and the Secretary General’s report. These documents, along with the draft Agreed Conclusions, serve as the core references for government and NGO delegates at the commission.


Both reports provide a substantive overview of the issues and the recommendations that are being proposed. For example, you and your organization may have very clear points you wish to raise regarding the equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving, in the context of HIV/AIDS — if so, you will want to tie them to one or more of the recommendations.  If the issue you want to raise is not directly related to the main theme, you will want to give some thought as to how you can make the connection.  Government delegates will not consider issues that are not related to the issues at hand.



The Equal Sharing of Responsibilities between Women and Men, including Caregiving

in the Context of HIV/AIDS summarizes key issues raised in the papers and discussions at an Expert Group Meeting organized in Geneva, Switzerland October 6-9, 2008, by the UN Division for the Advancement of Women. The findings from these deliberations will be presented at the 53rd CSW session in March 2009.


The discussion attempted to isolate the conditions that lead to uneven distribution of responsibilities between men and women in the public and private spheres and proposed a number of policy responses to promote a more equitable distribution of responsibilities. Among the critical causes, the most relevant include:

  • Patriarchal traditions which classify the role and contribution of women as inferior to the contributions of men;
  • Gender stereotypes, such as men being ‘natural’ leaders and women, being natural ‘caregivers’, lead to inequitable divisions of labor and skills development opportunities, and socially-accepted behavior that deter men from participating in care work;          
  • The result of domestic duties, including care for children, the elderly, the sick and disabled, is that women generally have less access to the resources, such as financial capital, land, housing, and property, that could empower women, all of which impact on the ability of women to contribute to decision-making;
  • Within the paid-sector, opportunities to women to advance their position is limited due to the labor-intensive nature of the work (i.e. paid child-care)


Among those suffering from or caring for sufferers:

  • Many do not have access to health care services and service providers do not have sufficient staff to deliver services to those in need;
  • Costs on health care systems are very heavy in countries most affected by HIV/ AIDS;
  • Preventing transmission of HIV/ AIDS is stymied by lack of formal diagnoses, lack of education on and access to anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs), and lack of financial and human resources to cope with the volumes of people suffering from HIV/ AIDS
  • Caregiving responsibilities for those living with HIV/ AIDS tend to fall disproportionately to women and girls, and affect them both socially, economically, physically and mentally


The consequences of these factors are many, including that:

  • Domestic responsibilities limit the ability of women to take advantage of education and training opportunities that might enable them to advance their positions;
  • Lack of education means women have access to fewer opportunities and what opportunities do exist tend to exist within the low productivity areas;
  • Women who do find employment opportunities are forced to balance this with domestic responsibilities resulting in double-duty;
  • Long hours and long commutes can disadvantage women who wish to work;
  • These factors also disadvantage women’s ability to participate in public life, and where they do participate, they tend to be in areas with no or limited formal power;


For those living with HIV/ AIDS, there are further consequences:

  • Labor-intensive work activities can precipitate a deterioration of health;
  • Intensive water requirement;
  • Lack of education and literacy means less access to information on methods of coping with HIV/ AIDS;
  • The needs and effects on caregivers are often ignored, as are the impacts on elderly family members who are often left to care for those suffering from HIV/ AIDS;
  • The psycho-sociological consequences of caring for people with HIV/ AIDS can affect over-all well being, especially when caregivers themselves suffer from HIV/ AIDS
  • Already poor households are further burdened by financial costs associated with living with HIV AIDS
  • The loss of women in the formal and informal sectors, especially agriculture, means limits on food supply and access, and means that girls are more likely to withdraw from school
  • Those who leave work to care for those suffering from HIV/ AIDS often face obstacles re-entering the workforce


In recognition of these causes and consequences, the EGM identified seven policy recommendations to help meet their vision of better distribution of care activities between men and women. These are: 

  1. Developing an economic, social and cultural strategy for care and social provisioning
  2. Identifying a macro-economic approach that targets and invests in social and individual well-being and the equal development of human capabilities for women and men 
  3. Formulating labor and social policies to support the equal sharing of caregiving responsibilities and eliminate inequalities in the labor market
  4. Addressing the sharing of caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS
  5. Transforming models of the female carer and the male “ideal” worker/elimination of stereotypes
  6. Transformation in attitudes and behaviour on the part of men and boys
  7. Increasing focus on research and disaggregating existing research with gender analysis through gender-focused data collection


For more information, or for a complete copy of this EGM report, please visit http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/egm/equalsharing/egm_equalsharing.htm



The Secretary-General’s report sets out the topic at hand in terms of the global policy and legal frameworks that deal with the equal sharing of responsibilities between men and women, including caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS; patterns and trends in the unequal sharing of responsibilities between genders; causes and consequences of this unequal sharing of responsibilities; caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS; policy responses; and conclusions and recommendations. In the interest of space, we are only including the recommendations and actions highlighted in the report:


(a) Ratify, without reservations, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the Optional Protocols thereto,45 and ensure the full and effective implementation of the provisions of the Conventions and the concluding comments of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Committee on the Rights of the Child;


 (b) Ratify, bring national legislation into conformity with, and fully implement ILO Convention No. 156 concerning Workers with Family Responsibilities (1981) and its corresponding Recommendation (No. 165);


 (c) Take all appropriate measures to eliminate de jure and de facto discrimination against women in relation to marriage, family law, inheritance and property;


 (d) Ensure that care work is recognized, measured and valued and systematically integrated into policies across all relevant sectors, including education, health and employment;


 (e) Promote greater understanding and recognition of the fact that care work should be shared between women and men, as well as among the State, the private sector, civil society and households; and strengthen dialogue and coordination among Governments, employers, civil society, including women’s organizations and trade unions, and donors, in this respect;


(f) Adopt gender-sensitive policies and legislation and review existing policies and legislation to improve rights, social protection, working conditions, and representation of both paid and unpaid caregivers; 


 (g) Ensure that both women and men have access to parental leave and other forms of leave, including maternity and paternity leave, and provide incentives to men to avail themselves of this leave, including, inter alia, through earmarked entitlements for fathers, and awareness-raising campaigns for the general public, schools, workplaces and other relevant institutions; 


(h) Increase flexibility in working conditions to facilitate greater reconciliation of work and other responsibilities, including caregiving; ensure the protection of workers through flexible working conditions with regard to wages, social protection and other benefits; and target such measures to all workers so as to avoid reinforcement of gender stereotypes;


(i) Adopt or review policies on social protection for people with care responsibilities, including family and child allowances, cash transfers and tax credits, and ensure that information on these benefits is widely available; 


 (j) Develop minimum pensions independent of years of contribution to ensure that basic minimum needs are met, and recognize leave periods for caregiving in calculation of pension benefits; 


 (k) Ensure the development and/or expansion of quality and affordable care services for children, the elderly, the sick and people living with disabilities; and ensure that such services meet the needs of both caregivers and care recipients in terms of proximity, hours of operation and cost; 


(l) Increase investments in quality and affordable public services, including schools and health services, and increase access to public infrastructure, such as transportation, water, sanitation and energy, in particular in rural and slum areas, so as to reduce the care burden on



 (m) Significantly scale up efforts, in the context of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, towards the goal of universal access to comprehensive prevention programmes, treatment, care and support by 2010 and ensure that those efforts promote gender equality;


 (n) Integrate gender perspectives into national HIV/AIDS policies and programmes, taking into account the caregiving responsibilities of both women and men;


 (o) Strengthen and improve public health-care services to alleviate the current demands on women and girls to provide unpaid care services in their households and communities in the context of HIV/AIDS, including in rural areas; 


(p) Develop multisectoral policies and programmes and increase resource allocations to support home-based care providers, including through access to information on HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, as well as training and provision of basic equipment and resources; 


 (q) Implement comprehensive and coordinated informational campaigns, involving, inter alia, educational institutions, workplaces in both the public and the private sector, the media and civil society, to challenge stereotypic gender roles and promote greater sharing of paid and unpaid work between women and men; 


 (r) Take measures to increase the role of men in caregiving within households and in care professions, and scale up interventions to reach boys and young men, including through fatherhood preparation courses and peer programmes;


(s) Strengthen the capacity of national statistical offices to effectively conduct and utilize time-use surveys to inform policy development that facilitates the sharing of unpaid work between women and men;


(t) Conduct research and collect sex- and age-disaggregated data, in order to inform policymaking, measure progress in the sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including in the context of HIV/AIDS, and identify the barriers men face due to stereotypic expectations;


(u) Carry out gender-sensitive evaluations and impact assessments of measures taken, and incorporate gender-responsive budgeting processes across all policy areas, including in the context of HIV/AIDS;


(v) Increase consultation with women and strengthen their access to decision-making in policies and programmes designed to support caregiving, including in the context of HIV/AIDS


The SG’s report is available at http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/csw53



The draft Agreed Conclusions is the main policy document that governments deliberate and refine, based on their own policy positions and priorities, during the official CSW sessions. Once it is finalized, it becomes the official outcome document of the CSW.

Download a copy: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/53sess.htm


NGOs are encouraged to attend the Coordination Caucus to work on the Agreed Conclusions as well as share advocacy strategies on lobbying governments during the CSW. This caucus will meet in UN Conference Room B from 5 pm to 6 pm from Tuesday to Thursday during the first week, and from Monday to Thursday, during the second week.



How can we move towards a world in which individuals and society recognize and value the importance of different forms of care, but without reinforcing care work as something that only women can or should do? The new BRIDGE Cutting Edge Pack on Gender and Care attempts to answer this question and maps out relevant issues and existing initiatives. It includes:

  • In Brief bulletin, with an overview and two articles focusing on relevant initiatives;
  • Overview Report, outlining the main issues, examples of innovative practice, and recommendations;
  • Supporting Resources Collection, including summaries of key resources, case studies, tools, and contact details for relevant organizations.


If you would like to learn more, BRIDGE will be organizing two sessions at the CSW entitle ‘Care work: a woman's domain’ on Monday, March 2, 12 pm - 2 pm, Grum Room, Church Center; and on Friday, March 6, 4.30 pm to 6 pm, UN Conference Room C. The pack can be downloaded at: http://www.bridge.ids.ac.uk/reports_gend_CEP.html#Care



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