Change begins from an individual. So, let the change start from you. All it takes is a change in your perception that the household chores are not the sole responsibility of women, but of every family member
Up at 5 am, she rushes to the kitchen. Cleaning and mopping the floors from top to bottom, she quickly brings tea to all the members of the family in their room. While cooking, she helps her kids get ready for school. Once the kids are gone, then comes the turn of the husband, who needs to go to office. She irons his clothes, serves the meal and remains stand by in case he needs any support.
Thereafter, she serves food to other members, cleans all the dishes, does the laundry. The routine rewinds in the afternoon as family members start arriving home.
The given routine represents everyday life of most women living in the urban or peri-urban areas of Nepal.
While the last few years have seen many changes, including in the constitution and laws, to address the gender inequality in education, health care, employment and leadership, however, little is reflected when it comes to a woman’s workload. Consciously or subconsciously, women inherit the household chores. While the practice is unjust, it is unfair always to blame the men for not sharing the household chores. They are part of our patriarchal system, the root of which goes back to generations. It is not uncommon for them to think that the household works are a woman’s responsibility when they grew up seeing the grandmother and mother doing the work while their grandfather and father did not bother to help.
There is a growing realisation that women are treated unfairly not only by the state but also by their husbands and sons at home. With this, there is greater readiness among the men to change for the better. They are convinced more than ever that the practice needs to change not only to make it fair for women, but also to better manage the family financially.
Women are half of the work force in most families, and limiting them to the household work has a huge opportunity cost. If and where they are given the opportunity, they have provided strong financial support to the family while also not foregoing other responsibilities.
This is also a reason more and more husbands are encouraging their wives to engage in activities beyond the household chores.
This has helped women in many families find jobs that interest them. While this obviously has given them exposure, their life at home has not improved.
They are forced to incessantly work as machines, from early morning to nearly until midnight, to meet all those obligations.
This is also effectively keeping away many women from starting something.
This situation calls for a change. And, men are best positioned to lead this. Just imagine, if every man in the family were to share the household chores, how this would change the relationship among the family members? It would have a strong and positive influence towards a happy relationship among the family members. More importantly, it will prepare today’s kids, or the men of the future, to contribute to a happier family tomorrow.
Men are requested to give a try. Share the workload in the kitchen, in doing the laundry, preparing kids for school and in cleaning. These household tasks are never ending and, at times, boring. But doing them together with the family members is fun, while also taking the load off your mom or wife. This will also create a stronger bond among the family members, giving more opportunity for interaction and love.
Change begins from an individual. So, let the change start from you, and it’s never too late to change for the better. All it takes is a change in your perception that the household chores are not the sole responsibility of women, but of every family member.
This will help address other issues, too. This will help many women to continue with their education or job, who otherwise succumb to the pressure coming from the burdensome household work. If extended support, she can happily pursue her career and grow, providing more support to the family. Besides, it creates the moral imperative for the women who were deprived of an education to involve in creative activities instead of spending time watching the serials.
It’s a win-win scenario, and everybody benefits from this change.
Although equality is ensured by the legal framework, change in practice requires conscious efforts from individuals. For this, at times, an initiative by an individual makes a huge difference. So, while everyone can play the role, youths should lead this change. While your mom is happy to get your support, your father also cannot ignore your request. You can share your workload and urge others to do the same.
Pitching in and helping your mother show that you have gone one step ahead in becoming a responsible citizen, who not only notices issues but also starts change from home.
Having gender balance at the workplace, education, property inheritance and leadership, however, doesn’t automatically create gender equality. Every citizen must play an empathetic role to actually make it happen.
I would like to make a special request to the girls.
Girls, you are now equally capable as boys. Can you ask your husband, current or prospective, if they would be happy to share the household workload? This is an indicator of how supportive your husbands are. Please keep in mind—care and support from the husband to grow are the things that matter most. Tall promises are just hollow.
A version of this article appears in print on June 12, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.