Unlocking sustainable development in Africa by addressing unpaid care and domestic work

Across Africa, ambitions to achieve inclusive and sustainable development are being undermined by inadequate investment in the care economy. Women and girls are providing millions of hours of unpaid care and domestic work (UCDW) – a provision which props up the economy and underpins society, yet remains under-recognized, undervalued and under-invested in. 

While inattention to care policy and the unequal distribution of UCDW has stalled gender equality in every country globally, this brief focuses on the specific barriers that UCDW creates for sustainable development in Africa. It explains how investing in quality, accessible and affordable public services and infrastructure in Africa can address heavy and unequal UCDW and unlock progress across multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The brief draws on research and programming experience from Oxfam’s Women’s Economic Empowerment and Care (WE-Care) programme. Active since 2014, the programme addresses UCDW as a key driver of gender inequality and is implemented in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe and the Philippines. This paper draws on WE-Care initiatives in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe, and presents evidence-based solutions from these five countries to address UCDW across the continent.