A Day in the Life of a Woman in Naddi

In Naddi, the list of activities that unpaid house work encompasses is long, and in every household, women take the primary responsibility to complete most of this work. We spent a day shadowing Shimla Devi and Parveena. Their days typically start at 5:30am with cooking for the family, and the work lasts until 8:30pm with cleaning up after dinner, with limited opportunity for rest or personal time.
5:30AM
COOKING For Shimla Devi, the morning starts at 5:30am, starting with getting dressed and praying before heading to the kitchen to cook breakfast and lunch.
7:00AM
TENDING TO THE COWS After the morning cooking is complete, and before she can take a chai break, Shimla Devi collects milk from the cows, and sets it to boil. She also uses this time to feed the cows and clean the cowshed, scooping up cow manure with her hands to set aside as fertilizer.
7:30AM
GETTING THE KIDS READY FOR SCHOOL Across the street, Parveena is rushing to get her kids dressed, packed, and ready for school. Noticing that her son is missing his pencil, she gives him Rs. 10 to pick up a pencil on the way to school.
8:30AM
CLEANING & LAUNDRY With the children and their respective husbands out to work, Shimla Devi and Parveena set out on the daily dusting, brooming, mopping, and laundry routine. Cleaning the house everyday is important and a big source of pride, as both women strongly believe a clean house is the key to good health for their family.
11:00AM
COLLECTING FIREWOOD OR COW FEED At 11am, women gather in the field to head to the forest together, alternating between days of collecting firewood and cow feed. This activity is physically demanding and connected to social, competitive pressures.
2:00PM
REST Shimla Devi knitting herself a sweater, in preparation for the winter.
3:00PM
CARING FOR CHILDREN & REST As the kids come home from school, Parveena preps a snack and a change of clothes, and joins her children and mother-in-law as they enjoy the afternoon sun.
5:30PM
PREPARING DINNER Preparing dinner is a time for the family to huddle together around the fire and share stories about their day. Women often have help from family members with the preparation of dinner.
8:30PM
RELAX & GO TO SLEEP After the long day and warm dinner, Parveena and Shimla Devi head to their respective rooms to relax and sleep.

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THE
TIME POVERTY
PROJECT

Unlocking women’s potential, one hour at a time


The Time Poverty Project
Unlocking women’s potential, one hour at a time
Enter the project

Globally, women do 3x more unpaid work than men.

We spent eight weeks living and working with women in rural India to find out why.


We asked:
  1. What is unpaid work, and how does it limit women and girls?
  2. What are the barriers to closing the unpaid work gap?
  3. What can we do to change this?
1 /  What is unpaid work, and how does it limit women and girls?
Unpaid work—it's work that is typically done in and around the home that you don't get any money for.

Things like:
  • Childcare
  • Elderly care
  • Cooking
  • Cleaning
  • Growing Food
In all parts of the world, women spend more time on unpaid work than men do.

This gap is even wider in the developing world. And for women in India, time spent is nearly twice the global average.


Economists call this time poverty.

And it means women can't finish school, get a job, stay healthy, or invest in the future.
We studied time poverty in rural India, where women spend over ten hours a day doing unpaid work.
See a woman’s day in Naddi, India

This is a problem.

We leave behind countless opportunities when women are without the time to fulfill their potential.
With an extra hour, or maybe three, a woman may choose to visit a doctor, start a business, or spend more time on her school work.

But, reducing time spent on unpaid work isn’t easy.

2 /  What are the barriers to closing the unpaid work gap?

We identified five key barriers:

1 / TIME SAVING TECHNOLOGY


2 / FREEDOM OF
CHOICE


3 / ROLE MODELS & IDENTITY


4 / COMMUNITY COLLABORATION


5 / MINDSETS OF
MEN



BARRIER 1: TIME SAVING TECHNOLOGY
Despite easy access, adoption of time-saving technologies and methods is limited.
In winter, we like to use the firewood chulla instead of the gas stove.”

-Shimla Devi, housewife who spends 3 hours a day collecting firewood

BARRIER 1: TIME SAVING TECHNOLOGY
Despite easy access, adoption of time-saving technologies and methods is limited.

In some cases, we observed that the cost of time-saving solutions is perceived to be greater than the value of a woman’s time and effort involved in conventional methods. In other cases, the available time-saving technologies prove to be cumbersome to use and unfit for the local context.

Laundry, cooking, and collecting firewood are three of the most time consuming, labourious, and hazardous tasks women perform. These tasks involve squatting, exposure to toxic smoke, lifting heavy and sharp objects, and traveling long distances on unpaved paths. The infrastructure exists for these tasks to be done in ways that save both time and physical effort–many households have laundry machines, gas and electric stoves, and access to affordable space heaters.



In the case of laundry, there is little trust that the washing machines available can wash the clothes well enough, and while the machines might be less labour intensive, they can be frustrating to use—their filling and draining functions are not automated.

In winter, we like to use the firewood chulla instead of the gas stove.”

-Shimla Devi, housewife who spends 3 hours a day collecting firewood

In the case of labour-intensive firewood collection for heating and cooking in the winter, the cost of time-saving alternatives (gas and electric) is perceived to be greater than the value of a woman’s time required for the task. Despite the relative affordability of alternatives, families continue to perform firewood collection the traditional way.

HYPOTHESIS:
If time-saving technologies were designed with greater consideration of local context, and if there were wider recognition of the opportunity cost and health impacts of time intensive tasks, households may choose to invest in the alternatives that create more free time in a woman’s day.

BARRIER 1: TIME SAVING TECHNOLOGY
Despite easy access, adoption of time-saving technologies and methods is limited.

We observed that, in some cases, the cost of time-saving solutions is perceived to be greater than the value of a woman’s time and effort involved in conventional methods. In other cases, the available time-saving technologies prove to be cumbersome to use and unfit for the local context.

HYPOTHESIS: If time-saving technologies were designed with greater consideration of local context, and if there were wider recognition of the opportunity cost and health impacts of time intensive tasks, households may choose to invest in the alternatives that create more free time in a woman’s day.


BARRIER 2: FREEDOM OF CHOICE
Young women and girls are without the space to dream given the pressures of marriage, childbearing, and housekeeping.
I'm leaving the choice up to my daughter, but I don't think she is interested in doing more courses.”

-Om, shop owner and father of three

BARRIER 2: FREEDOM OF CHOICE
Young women and girls are without the space to dream given the pressures of marriage, childbearing, and housekeeping.

Girls in Naddi, today, are educated, confident, and full of potential, but aren’t striving to do more. The decision of what to do after secondary school is a prime opportunity for girls to opt-in to pursuing higher education, paid work, or other self-enhancing activities, but in the vast majority of cases, girls and their families determine that this the optimal point at which preparation for marriage should begin. The pressures of marriage, and the broad perception of what life will be like after marriage and into child-bearing, stops young girls from aspiring for more than the conventional. In particular, the timing of post-secondary schooling and marriage appear to be in direct competition.



I'm leaving the choice up to my daughter, but I don't think she is interested in doing more courses.”

-Om, shop owner and father of three

When parents are asked about their goals for their children, they report a high valuation of the pursuit of education–both for their boys and their girls. However, in practice, families have vastly different aspirations for their sons and daughters.

When it comes to their sons, parents aspire for them to either study more, get a job, or take over the family business. For girls, this is much different—parents’ primary aspiration for their daughters is for them to be married into a good family. The daughters, in turn, internalize the same aspirations for themselves, and perceive a competition between the pursuit of higher education or a career, and marriage, as the prime age for both occur simultaneously. Parents perceive this as a lack of interest from their daughters in other opportunities apart from marriage. This re-affirms the belief that daughters should be married soon.

HYPOTHESIS:
If there were more space for girls to dream, families and communities could realize the untapped potential of girls.

BARRIER 2: FREEDOM OF CHOICE
Young women and girls are without the space to dream given the pressures of marriage, childbearing, and housekeeping.

Girls in Naddi, today, are educated, confident, and full of potential, but aren’t striving to do more. The decision of what to do after secondary school is a prime opportunity for girls to opt-in to pursuing higher education, paid work, or other self-enhancing activities, but in the vast majority of cases, girls and their families determine that this the optimal point at which preparation for marriage should begin. The pressures of marriage, and the broad perception of what life will be like after marriage and into child-bearing, stops young girls from aspiring for more than the conventional.

HYPOTHESIS: If there were more space for girls to dream, families and communities could realize the untapped potential of girls.


BARRIER 3: ROLE MODELS & IDENTITY
Identity both constricts and expands the scope of who women and girls believe they can be.
Have you ever seen a female taxi driver?”

-Shabu, 17-year-old girl considering her options after school

BARRIER 3: ROLE MODELS & IDENTITY
Identity both constricts and expands the scope of who women and girls believe they can be.

Women in Naddi have few opportunities to discover or cultivate unique interests, aspirations, or sense of self. Without access to the images which role model alternative realities, women and girls are without the opportunity to challenge conventional notions of who they can be. For adult women, this means subscription to an identity based on their unpaid house work, a reality created by a limitation of choice beyond the home. By strongly subscribing to this identity, women limit the definition of what they believe they can do with their lives.

Have you ever seen a female taxi driver?”

-Shabu, 17-year-old girl considering her options after school


This is especially highlighted in cases where households have a level of income that would afford women the opportunity not to do housework, but they continue to do this work as it is integral to who they are. On the other hand, for young women and girls, this means that alternative ambitions around what to do with their lives appear to be deviant.

Because there are a few, if any, contextually-relevant role models for these girls, the possibility and viability of other options is not fully considered. Alternative realities which stem from the choices to pursue higher education, build a career, develop creative interests, or delay marriage and childbirth, all seem out of reach.

HYPOTHESIS:
If women and girls had better access to culturally-relevant images which role model viable and accessible alternatives, they could expand their awareness of possible realities.

By associating themselves to an identity that cultivates unique interests and aspirations, young women and girls could radically re-imagine the role they play in their communities.

BARRIER 3: ROLE MODELS & IDENTITY
Identity both constricts and expands the scope of who women and girls believe they can be.

Women in Naddi have few opportunities to discover or cultivate unique interests, aspirations, or sense of self. Without access to the images which role model alternative realities, women and girls are without the opportunity to challenge conventional notions of who they can be.

HYPOTHESIS: If women and girls had better access to culturally-relevant images which role model viable and accessible alternatives, they could expand their awareness of possible realities.

By associating themselves to an identity that cultivates unique interests and aspirations, young women and girls could radically re-imagine the role they play in their communities.


BARRIER 4: COMMUNITY COLLABORATION
Unpaid work is not shared or accomplished in communal ways, resulting in duplication and redundancy between households.
I had a job offer at a sewing shop with good pay. But they required that I work from 9am-5pm everyday. I turned it down. Who would be there for the kids when they come home at 3?”

-Parveena, mother of two who works part-time to supplement her husband’s income

BARRIER 4: COMMUNITY COLLABORATION
Unpaid work is not shared or accomplished in communal ways, resulting in duplication and redundancy between households.

Although Naddi is a small community with many close-knit families and households, the sharing of resources, labour and otherwise, is almost non-existent. When it comes to unpaid work, this means that tasks are replicated and women spend more time than necessary to ensure their individual home is self-sustaining despite communal surplus.

In some cases, women in the same house have independent kitchens because of the sense of pride and confidence associated with self-sufficiency and independence. This do-it-yourself mindset prevents women from tapping into the support networks that exist within their community, that would allow them to save time and make other commitments.



I had a job offer at a sewing shop with good pay. But they required that I work from 9am-5pm everyday. I turned it down. Who would be there for the kids when they come home at 3?”

-Parveena, mother of two who works part-time to supplement her husband’s income


Today, women who want to work jobs or take up community activities that are time-sensitive, are unable to do so, because they have prior time commitments at home (e.g., being home for the kids as they finish school at 3pm), and no support.

HYPOTHESIS:
If mechanisms existed to share surplus resources and allocate unpaid work more efficiently at a community-level, women could reduce duplicative efforts in favour of other opportunities.

BARRIER 4: COMMUNITY COLLABORATION
Unpaid work is not shared or accomplished in communal ways, resulting in duplication and redundancy between households.

Although Naddi is a small community with many close-knit families and households, the sharing of resources, labour and otherwise, is almost non-existent. When it comes to unpaid work, this means that tasks are replicated and women spend more time than necessary to ensure their individual home is self-sustaining despite communal surplus.

HYPOTHESIS: If mechanisms existed to share surplus resources and allocate unpaid work more efficiently at a community-level, women could reduce duplicative efforts in favour of other opportunities.


BARRIER 5: MINDSETS OF MEN
The occupational discontent of men in paid work overshadows the reality of the unpaid work gap.
My mother only works 2, maybe 3 hours per day.”

-Sunil, 26 year-old business owner

BARRIER 5: MINDSETS OF MEN
The occupational discontent of men in paid work overshadows the reality of the unpaid work gap.

With an economy structured around tourism, the list of work options available in Naddi is short: taxi driver; tea stall operator; shop owner; hotel attendant;restaurant server. Given the limited options, men’s pursuit of paid work is driven by financial necessity rather than personal or professional interest, often leaving them unfulfilled and unhappy. This cultivates the belief that paid work is broadly undesirable, which justifies the perception that women doing unpaid work at home is a relatively better option.

My mother only works 2, maybe 3 hours per day.”

-Sunil, 26 year-old business owner


This dissatisfaction amongst working men has important implications upon what they think of the house work women do. First, most men surveyed have a limited understanding of the continuous physical exertion and the number of time-consuming tasks women squeeze into each day, and because of this, don’t see how little time women have to do things like rest, cultivate interests, go to the doctor, or attend school. In addition, men perceive unpaid house work as an occupation that shields women from the harsh realities of the outside world like, financial stress, long hours, un-fulfillment, and safety concerns–the same conditions which produce the state of discontent amongst men themselves. This combination of misunderstanding a woman’s working context and the desire to protect her from the world, justifies the maintenance of the status quo, whereby men seek paid work outside of the home and women do not.

HYPOTHESIS:
If there were broader recognition amongst men of the true nature of unpaid work, and the optimism that other opportunities can be fulfilling, men could channel their good intentions, status, and privilege to advance ideas of equally distributed paid and unpaid work between men and women.

BARRIER 5: MINDSETS OF MEN
The occupational discontent of men in paid work overshadows the reality of the unpaid work gap.

Given the limited options of work in Naddi, men’s pursuit of paid work is driven by financial necessity rather than personal or professional interest, leaving them unfulfilled and unhappy. This cultivates the belief that paid work is undesirable, which justifies the perception that women doing unpaid work at home is a relatively better option.

HYPOTHESIS: If there were broader recognition amongst men of the true nature of unpaid work, and the optimism that other opportunities can be fulfilling, men could channel their good intentions, status, and privilege to advance ideas of equally distributed paid and unpaid work between men and women.

3 /  What can we do to change this?
All around the world, the time spent on unpaid work limits women and girls.

But, we can change this.

Our research points to 5 opportunities to close the unpaid work gap:

TIME SAVING TECHNOLOGY
How might we highlight the opportunity cost of unpaid work to encourage broader adoption of time-saving technologies?

FREEDOM OF CHOICE
How might we give girls the space to dream and equip them with the power of choice?

ROLE MODELS & IDENTITY
How might we amplify the influence of role models who empower girls to pursue opportunities, discover unique interests, and cultivate personal aspirations?

COMMUNITY COLLABORATION
How might we unlock the potential of the community to accomplish unpaid work in more collaborative ways?

MINDSETS OF MEN
How might we increase the awareness of the detrimental effects of unpaid work and mobilize men as advocates of change?
Our research points to 5 opportunities to close the unpaid work gap:

1 / Time saving technology: How might we highlight the opportunity cost of unpaid work to encourage broader adoption of time-saving technologies?
2 / Freedom of choice: How might we give girls the space to dream and equip them with the power of choice?
3 / Role models & identity: How might we amplify the influence of role models who empower girls to pursue opportunities, discover unique interests, and cultivate personal aspirations?
4 / Community collaboration: How might we unlock the potential of the community to accomplish unpaid work in more collaborative ways?
5 / Mindsets of men: How might we increase the awareness of the detrimental effects of unpaid work and mobilize men as advocates of change?


THE TIME POVERTY PROJECT

Let's work together to close the unpaid work gap.

We’re committed to taking this project forward. With your partnership, we can ensure every woman has the freedom to fulfill her potential.


Start the conversation:
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