Burkina Faso: Couple support each other to manage household tasks

| February 2, 2024

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Wendyam Sawadogo is an executive assistant in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, who has effectively balanced work and home life along with her civil engineer husband since 2015. They have three children and share household responsibilities: she handles the kitchen, he manages the children and errands, and together they do the grocery shopping. Their approach evolved after Mrs. Sawadogo started working in 2019. It emphasized cooperation and included the hiring of a housekeeper. The Sawadogos focus on mutual understanding and teaching their children the value of sharing household tasks.

It’s almost 5 p.m. on a Monday in December—the end of the workday. After a fulfilling day, executive assistant Wendyam Sawadogo returns home in the Bassinko neighbourhood, north of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Now she can handle some household tasks—with the support of her husband. She explains, “After work, I take care of the kitchen, and my husband picks up the children from school.”

The Sawadogo couple has chosen to share domestic chores for the well-being of their family. They have been married since 2015 and have three children. Mrs. Sawadogo works in the insurance sector, while Mr. Sawadogo is a civil engineer in the public administration. Mrs. Sawadogo used to exclusively manage domestic tasks, but began working with a local insurance company in 2019. With her new responsibilities, she discusses how to share domestic tasks with her husband. 

She says, “Thanks to my husband’s understanding, we have redistributed domestic tasks. I am able to pursue my professional career and fully play my role as a wife and mother.”

Mr. Sawadogo acknowledges that his wife couldn’t manage household tasks alone while maintaining her job. He explains, “We laid out all the daily tasks and decided on each person’s role based on their commitments.” He takes care of managing the children and handling other daily errands for the family, while his wife focuses on cooking. He adds, “As for household chores, I assist her as much as possible. We sometimes do the grocery shopping together.”

In addition to mutual support, the Sawadogo couple hired a housekeeper and decided to enroll their children in schools close to home to avoid long commutes.

Blaise Tiénin is a gender equality expert in Burkina Faso’s public service. He says that the country’s Family Code allows each spouse to pursue a profession without the other’s consent, except if it jeopardizes the family’s interests. According to Mr. Tiénin, spouses have a duty to help each other manage the household, including domestic tasks. He says, “Men should assist their wives in domestic work so that they can have time for paid work and personal fulfillment.” This allows women to earn income and effectively manage the family.

Mr. Sawadogo says his wife’s employment contributes significantly to the family’s well-being, and that her income helps meet family needs and demands. Mrs. Sawadogo feels the same, saying, “This job allows me to thrive. I can meet my small needs and support my husband in his projects.”

Mrs. Sawadogo says that the success of their partnership is founded on organization, discussion, and understanding between her and her husband. She believes that, to maintain this success in future generations, children need to be educated on the importance of sharing tasks within the family. Mr. Tiénin agrees, and emphasizes the importance of gender-sensitive parenting in promoting justice and equity within households, providing equal opportunities for girls and boys, building a fair and equitable society free from gender inequalities, and moving towards inclusive and sustainable development.

Mr. Tiénin concludes by advising parents to appreciate household tasks and those who accomplish them  and to pay attention to fairly distributing tasks between girls and boys, ensuring that each contributes in their own way to the well-being of the household. Mrs. Sawadogo expresses her satisfaction with her husband’s support, saying, “I am content and happy with my family!”

This resource was produced through the ‘UCARE – Unpaid Care in sub-Saharan Africa‘ initiative, which aims to increase gender equality and women’s empowerment through a commitment to more just and equitable sharing of unpaid care and domestic work within the household and the family in sub-Saharan Africa. The project is implemented in partnership with Farm Radio International (FRI), UN Women, and The African Women’s Development and Communications Network (FEMNET) thanks to funding from Global Affairs Canada.

Photo: Jackson Steven Mazengo with his wife Rose Yonathan in front of their house in Rudewa Mbuyuna location near Morogoro, Tanzania on May 27, 2014.