Discussants at a programme urged the government to introduce parental leave for both men and women, instead of only granting maternity leave, in a bid to reduce discrimination towards women.
Women spend an average of more than seven hours on unpaid care work while men spend approximately an hour and a half on it, they said quoting a recent survey.
The paternity leave would allow men to take the greater share of the household work and to look after the children and thereby women would get more opportunities to get involved in paid work.
The speakers came up with these observations while addressing the opening ceremony of a photography exhibition titled "Different Images of Men" and a research-sharing event on unpaid care work, organised by ActionAid Bangladesh (AAB) at its Gulshan office in Dhaka on Saturday.
The Exhibition was launched following a National Photography Contest which aimed to showcase the men’s share in looking after their family members through taking part in unpaid care work.
ActionAid Bangladesh Country Director Farah Kabir said women would be able to earn more had both the men and women equally participated in household work.
Research Initiative Bangladesh (RIB) Executive Director Meghna Guhathakurta, who presented the keynote paper in the event, said: “Women have to quit their jobs in order to take care of the children. But the women would be able to continue their earning if their male counterparts gave them a hand with doing household work.”
The organisers also shared a research paper titled “Time Use of Women and Men (unpaid care work)” which says unpaid care work such as household chores, taking care of the children and the elderly often remain invisible in national accounting systems because of the disadvantageous position of women in our society.
According to the paper, women spend around an hour in paid work whereas men spend more than 5 hours in work they get paid for.
The survey was conducted among the participants of AAB’s Promoting Opportunities for Women’s Empowerment and Rights (POWER) project in Lalmonirhat and Gaibandha districts.
RIB Executive Director Meghna Guhathakurta said the patterns indicate that women have been contributing more to paid work than before but much their effort remains unnoticed due to the gender-biased pay scale.
“Average duration of unpaid care work performed by the women respondents is around 8 hours, and the maximum duration extends to up to 15 hours a day,” she said.
Around 50% of the respondents have spent an average of 7.8 hours every day for unpaid care work which includes child care, care for the elderly, fuel collection, water collection, cooking, cleaning, washing, and other household chores.
The men, however, spend an average of 1.3 hours on such unpaid care work.
Meghna recommended that the relevant public and private sector enterprises introduce a pro-family work policy so that women do not have to undertake the full burden.
These policies may take the form of parental leave instead of maternity leave to take care of young children, extending day-care services, or accommodating both parents in the same location in the transfer of jobs, she added.
With its recommendation, the research paper also stressed for more women-friendly policies at the state level.
Responding to the demands, finance minister AMA Muhith, who was the chief guest at the programme, said: “We can take a universal target to eliminate male-female discrimination."
“We may allocate money to compensate women for their unpaid household work. But, we need power and a developed-system to implement it. We will have to create a special agenda and most importantly international acceptability to make it happen,” added the veteran minister.
Women and Children Affairs ministry Secretary Nasima Begum and Netherlands embassy to Bangladesh First Secretary (SRHR and Gender) Dr Annie Vestjens also spoke at the event, among others.
The five-day exhibition will remain open from 3pm to 8pm every day until Wednesday.