Virus subjects women to more unpaid work, threatens job creation vision

Monday November 15 2021
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Rwanda is implementing a strategic plan to support and empower women through employment by 2024. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA

By Ange Iliza

Covid-19 pandemic has subjected women to more su­fferings as job opportunities get fewer.

The new reality brought about by Covid-19 could jeopardise the country's strategic plan to support and empower women through employment by 2024.

While unpaid work was known to mostly affect rural women, the pandemic has made the burden inevitable for mothers who had to shift to working from their homes.

With many juggling between work and caring for their families, they missed out on opportunities while others had to quit working.

“It was hard because the baby was still small. Sometimes I had to attend meetings with him on my lap or back. As a mother for the first time, I was very worried and knew that I have to work and take care of him simultaneously. This disturbed my mental health,” said Marie Ange Mukaneza.

 “My performance at work was probably the poorest in my team because I had to take breaks in the middle of work sessions, cancel appointments and meetings,” added Ms Mukaneza.


Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, data by UN Women show that more women have been working from home.

This has significantly increased their time spent on unpaid domestic activities and care for children.

Rwanda National Institute of Statistics Labour Force Survey of 2020 shows that women have been disproportionately a­ ected by rising rates of unemployment, with many resorting to subsistence agriculture.

For some, realities before and after Covid-19 had completely changed. An example is Marie Mukankwiro’s life. The stay-at-home mother of four is responsible for the welfare of all her household members.

Before the pandemic, two of her children were in boarding school while her husband spent more time at work.

“I had more time to myself. I would find enough time to dedicate to my church choir, visit friends, and knit as a hobby. When the pandemic hit, everything changed,” Mukankwiro recounts.

During the lockdown, all her four sons, husband and brother-in-law lived together. She was expected to cook three meals a day, visit grocery shop at least once every week, wash dishes, clean the house, and do laundry work.