International Women’s Day is observed on March 8 and provides a platform to acknowledge the contribution of women to society in various fields such as education, politics, science, and business. The day also serves as an opportunity for discussions and dialogue on issues faced by women, such as gender discrimination and violence against women, and for proposing solutions to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. But, in practice, despite all this initiative and action, the gender disparity in leadership roles in many professions remains a persistent concern worldwide.
Gender bias, preconceptions, and lack of access to opportunities and resources are some of the key factors contributing to the prejudice that women still experience in the workplace. Meanwhile, when it comes to discrimination against women in the workplace, do we consider the conditions of women who operate our home as housewives or mothers? On International Women’s Day, while we are busy highlighting the advancement of women in various professions, we often overlook and underrate the contribution of women, especially in poor or developing countries, who often work long hours to care for their families and maintain their homes. Additionally, household chores in these countries are still done manually due to the absence of modern household appliances and technology. This is not only physically demanding but also time consuming and requires women to spend most of their time at home.
To further grasp this context, it would be constructive if I used the example of a typical Bangladeshi housewife who starts her day by waking up early in the morning to prepare breakfast for the family before beginning her other daily care responsibilities. She visits the local market to buy farm-fresh vegetables, meat, and fish. Though males are usually the ones to carry food home from the market, when they have to leave early for work, a woman is tasked with this chore; however, these foods are frequently sold in raw and unprocessed conditions, so before cooking, she must clean and slice them. Not only that, but she also washes vegetables several times to ensure there is no dirt or pesticide residue. Similarly, fish and meat are descaled, gutted, and cleaned before being cooked. Most of the families here are extended families that require her to cook for all the members of her in-law’s family as well.
After cooking, to dispose of the food waste, she often must walk a long way when there is no waste management infrastructure in her community. As can be observed, she spends most of her time doing kitchen work, while her day also includes other household activities like cleaning the house, doing the laundry manually with no washing machine, and caring for the children and other elderly members. At the end of the day these tasks become burdensome for her, she feels overwhelmed and stressed about whether they are done properly and whether she was able to serve everyone satisfactorily. While for working women, it becomes more difficult and challenging to manage both household chores and a job.
Because of these circumstances, women are less likely to look for jobs after juggling domestic responsibilities. This also indicates they have less time and fewer opportunities for personal growth and development than men. As a result, they typically do not receive the same respect and attention as those in paid employment, nor are they reimbursed for their labor. Again, undervaluing women’s work provokes the gender disparity, and when there are no economic prospects, domestic violence against women increases and women have less influence over family decision-making.
Taking this into consideration, recognizing the importance of women’s work in running their homes and sharing daily responsibilities with others is crucial to lessening their daily stress and workloads. Concurrently, there is a prerequisite to bring about positive change in society; people need to change their attitudes and break the stereotype that only girls should do household work. If men help with household duties, not only will work strain on women be eased, but gender equality will be promoted. It will ensure we are building an equal society in which all individuals are valued and respected regardless of their gender or work status.
However, when we talk about the celebration of International Women’s Day, that celebration will be truly meaningful and inclusive if we can equally consider and respect the unique duties and struggles of women from all walks of life, from working women to housewives.
Women’s contribution to household waste management
In many developing countries like Bangladesh, women are primarily responsible for household waste management. On one hand, household waste management is a complex issue that affects the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities; on the other hand, it is a challenging and time-consuming task, especially in areas that lack appropriate waste management infrastructure and resources. Because women are generally in charge of managing household garbage, including storing, sorting, and disposal, the burden of this issue or the pressure of managing it properly frequently falls on women. As such, they could make a substantial contribution to effective waste management provided they have the right training or instructions.
For instance, it is often seen that a lack of awareness leads to the disposal of organic and compostable household waste on the streets, creating an environment that fosters the spread of disease; however, if managed appropriately, such waste can be used to create fertilizer to fulfill the needs of home gardening. And so, educating women about the benefits of recycling could motivate them to segregate their waste at home, allowing recyclable waste to be repurposed instead of being sent to landfills or put on the streets. Women may also make a difference by acting to cut down on food waste, which can help households lower their carbon footprint and combat the effects of climate change.
On International Women’s Day, we should take steps to encourage women by appreciating their leadership role in household waste management. We should also bear in mind that managing household waste requires precise training, awareness, and access to services; in a word, it requires a combined initiative from government, organizations, individuals, and other stakeholders. With collective effort, we can make sure that women are not solely burdened with the task of waste management and that everyone may take advantage of a clean and healthy environment.
How my project is contributing to educating women on household waste management
With these considerations in mind, I am planning a community project to better address these issues. As part of this project, women will be educated on proper household waste management, while consulting or coordinating with municipalities or local governments to ensure women have necessary access, support, and infrastructure for waste management. Meanwhile, to raise awareness among women, I have designed a behavioral change communication booklet that outlines how to store and dispose of waste properly, what the negative effects of improper waste management on the environment and human health are, and how to recycle waste and its advantages.
I am also engaging with local governments to suggest policies that include investments in the workforce, infrastructure, and technology to enhance waste management efficiency and promote sustainability. In addition, when local governments or central systems are inactive, there are plans to help local communities in waste reduction and circular economy through autonomous community-based waste management systems led by women to further inculcate the spirit of women’s empowerment and leadership among them.
Involving women in waste management decision-making and leadership roles can enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of waste management practices. From their daily experiences, they can bring their unique perspective, leading to innovative and practical solutions to intricate waste management challenges. As a woman who is leading this waste management awareness project, I believe that successful implementation of this project will not only help educate women on proper waste management but also inspire and guide other lay women to seek leadership positions in waste management and other traditionally male-dominated fields by promoting gender equality.