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Togo: Woman advocates for recognition of unpaid care and shared domestic responsibilities

It’s early in the morning and homemaker Akofa Amagnon is walking along a small path with four empty basins on her head. Mrs. Amagnon is heading to the neighbourhood well 500 metres from her home to fetch water. She lives in Elavagnon, about 60 kilometres south of the city of Atakpamé in Togo. She says: “I need to ensure that the jug we use for storing water is filled every morning to meet my family’s daily needs. Then, I sweep the yard, do the dishes and cooking, and accompany my children to school.”

Mrs. Amagnon is married and a mother of three children. She used to manage a shop and had to balance domestic chores with running her business. But this year, she decided to close her shop because of the four daily trips she makes to accompany her youngest child, who just started school.

Mrs. Amagnon says, “I don’t know how many hours a day I spend taking care of my family.” She adds that her household chores take up almost all of her time. She says, “I am the first to wake up and the last to go to bed.”     

Tchilalo Anastasie Sosso is a facilitator for a Togolese NGO’s project on addressing gender-based violence. Mrs. Sosso says that women’s unpaid work includes any activity they undertake for household upkeep and any activity that contributes to the family’s well-being done without financial compensation. This includes domestic work such as caring for family members and household tasks like cooking and dishwashing. She says these domestic tasks are exclusively delegated to women in Togo due to preconceived ideas from traditional education. She says, “From a young age, girls are taught to cook, not boys.”

Mrs. Amagnon hopes that her unpaid efforts will be recognized. She believes that men should help their wives with tasks such as taking the children to school, and that they should recognize and encourage women for all the care they provide for the family’s well-being.

Alika Passinda is a teacher at the Elavagnon CEG secondary school and lives in the Kossi Kope neighbourhood. He acknowledges that his wife plays a significant role in running the household. He says she takes care of domestic chores, leaving him time for his professional responsibilities. But he often helps his wife by bathing the children or looking after them while she is busy in the kitchen.

Mrs. Sosso argues that men can contribute to recognizing the value of women’s domestic work, but that this requires raising awareness about how spouses can share domestic tasks. Her NGO continues to educate men to help women more, and is seeing some progress. She says, “More and more men, especially those who are educated, assist their wives in daily tasks. Attitudes are gradually changing.”

Mrs. Sosso says that women’s unpaid work is underestimated and unrecognized in families despite its critical contribution to the functioning and well-being of the family. She estimates the financial value of a woman’s unpaid work in Togo at between 10,000 FCFA and 40,000 FCFA ($16 to $66 US) per month. 

She explains: “This is the average salary of domestic helpers. This amount is meager because not all tasks are taken into account. Some things cannot be priced, like caring for family members.” 

She adds that an NGO study estimated that a woman homemaker devotes up to 20 hours per week to domestic work compared to 12 hours for men.

Mrs. Sosso also believes that women who give up their professional occupations to care for the family should be registered in a social security fund so that they can benefit from a retirement pension.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Amagnon focuses on educating her children to ensure that sharing domestic tasks becomes a reality. She says, “I am already teaching my eldest son that domestic work should be shared between girls and boys.”

This resource was produced through the ‘UCARE – Unpaid Care in sub-Saharan Africa [1]‘ 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: Amagnon Akofa at a public well in Elavagnon, East Mono in the south of Togo.