BY Louisa Vinton | 22 June 2018
Sustainable Development Goal number 5 recognizes the need to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by 2030. As the UN Country Team in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, we have been wrestling with this topic and are working tirelessly to help national partners achieve the Global Goals, which have come with a series of challenges. Care or Construction to drive the economy? Our UN team in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has been advocating for two potential solutions to the existing inequalities regarding the burden of unpaid care work. The first proposed solution is to promote an expansion in state-funded social care services, such as care for preschool children, the elderly, and people living with disabilities. An increase in care services should be seen as an investment that stimulates growth and creates new and better jobs primarily taken by women. For us at the UN, this is a very attractive equation, because doing the right thing is also the economically sound thing to do. It also provides a refreshing contrast to an entrenched belief in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia that investing in construction work is the best way to use public funds to create jobs. Debunking myths about the care economy To prove this point, we did some data digging. Research conducted by UNDP and UN Women in Turkey helped us build a case on the importance of investing in social care infrastructure versus construction infrastructure. According to their research, social care investments could generate 2.5 times more jobs than investments in construction. So, imagine this: instead of a mere 290,000 jobs in construction, the same amount of government spending could yield 719,000 jobs in care services. And 73 percent of these new caregiving jobs would go to women, against just 6 percent of those in construction. Alongside this first powerful idea, we are trying to combat the stereotype that house chores are handled only by women. This conviction runs deep in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and men are let off the hook when in fact they could proactively step it up and share the burden of house work. To gain traction for these arguments, we made the idea of “care economy” the centerpiece of a high-profile UN-sponsored conference in June 2017. At the event, the new Prime Minister, Zoran Zaev gave a speech where he emphasized the importance of greater inclusion of women in the labor market and encouraged men to share more responsibilities at home. This high-level affirmation put wind in our sails, and the new Government has engaged with us energetically! Beyond the grandparent model of childcare Despite some research, our work has still been hampered by a lack of up-to-date data. The country has not conducted a census since 2002, and there are only a few areas in which gender-disaggregated data is collected systematically. For example, on workforce participation, there is minimal gender-sensitive analysis to explain the behaviors behind the numbers. This creates uncertainty as to why women are not more active in the labor market and why men are not doing more at home. We have assumptions, but we still need to test them to prove their validity or not. UN Women undertook a recent study on labor force participation. More than 3,600 women from 2,500 households participated. As expected, more than a third of those surveyed were not working because of care responsibilities in the home. There was no surprise here, but what did intrigue us was that conservative beliefs about appropriate roles for women seemed as big a deterrent to working outside the home. On one hand, women overwhelmingly saw employment as the key to an independent life. On the other hand, women seemed to feel that they were better at caregiving than men. This experience helped us to make sense of one of the findings of UN Women’s research. The secret, we concluded, was to offer care services outside the home that provided something more than a safe and secure kind of ‘human storage.’ This was clear, for example, in conversations with the mayor of a rural ethnic Albanian municipality with 25,000 inhabitants where UNDP helped to establish the first public preschool facility in 2015. The Mayor underlined the need to get beyond the “grandparent model” of childcare to ensure that preschool children enjoyed the benefits of socialization and early childhood education and can compete in the modern world. These findings also reinforced a new initiative by UNICEF to expand the reach of early childhood education programs. Since poorer families currently don't (or can't) access early childhood education opportunities, this expansion would overcome the current bias of daycare offerings towards well-off families and help to fight the intergenerational transmission of poverty. But here, too, demand would need to be stimulated, since so many families still believe in the idea of “grandparent care.” How we undertake these tasks will depend on the results of our quest for further data. We are pursuing three new lines of inquiry that should bring us closer to solutions: Is there a compelling economic argument for the “care economy” in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia? Our initial analysis looked at supply and demand trends for both childcare and eldercare. There are 96 institutions (public and private) with 4,655 staff providing early childhood care services to 34,386 children. However, 4,158 children were refused in 2016 due to lack of capacity. This suggests that the country is failing to satisfy childcare needs. The outlook is similar for care for the elderly, where social care options are even less developed. Currently only 20 institutions with 365 staff provide care for 1,050 elderly people nationwide. Is there a nationwide centralized registry that encompasses the full spectrum of preschools and kindergartens, elder care institutions and daycare services for persons with disabilities? The answer is no. We are wrapping up the first-ever national inventory of social care services covering all three different sectors: public, private and civil society providers. The results are still being analyzed, but it is clear that core populations are underserved. This is especially the case in rural areas and areas dominated by ethnic minority populations (Albanians, Roma and Turks). For example, under 4 percent of Roma children are in childcare. Why are men reluctant caregivers? UNDP conducted a survey to identify the main obstacles that hinder men from getting involved in care work with the hopes finding ways to initiate behavioral change among the male population. Next steps Once the results are analyzed and digested, our next step is to hold design-thinking workshops to discover what might encourage men to undertake a larger share of “women’s work” at home. We hope that these workshops will help us find volunteers willing to serve as caregiver champions or at least as positive deviants. UNFPA and UN Women have already built modest advocacy campaigns around these themes (see poster), and the UN team as a whole looks forward to campaigning in 2018 to break down the barriers women face to employment, and those that men face to caregiving. “Men can do it too” – UNFPA’s tongue-in-cheek campaign on gender roles and housework
BY Kanni Wignaraja | 06 June 2018
My recent visit to Somalia was a mere 48 hours, to take in a decades long story of conflict and climate-driven destruction of Mogadishu. Of Somalia. They say what you hear and see in those initial moments, in the blink of an eye, is what stays with you and gets deeply etched in memory, despair and in hope. So here goes. Green saplings rising The sharp banking of the plane I was coming in on, and a runway that went toe-to-toe with the Indian Ocean waves, should have been a give-away. The heavily fortified ‘green zone’ where the diplomatic missions, UN and some government and NGOs reside, made the working reality stark to me. The challenges faced cried out for all working in Somalia to do the impossible. To re-vision a country, together with many of its young people, growing back from the ashes as a green sapling tries to do. The question is if the UN can accompany a very young country on this journey, and guide and nurture this next generation, however fragile the openings may be, as they inspire us with their dreams and plans for a new, phoenix-like Somalia. For the few young people I spoke to, the idea of their country is one filled with a youthful exuberance and energy that makes one want to leap out of one’s container (where most staff still sleep at night) and get out there to help. This is the story of the UN in Somalia. So can we move from the forever-an-emergency modus operandi, to take a moment to carve out and protect some spaces, in our plans and with our funding, to be there also for the re-visioned Somalia? Amidst all that challenges a faster national level rebuild, two factors, in particular, seem to slow down the shift in gear that the UN in Somalia wishes to make. The UN team is trying to support a disproportionately large displaced population – well over 6 million - that live in highly vulnerable situations, confronted daily by the fragility of climate change, injustice and clashing clan identity, with little protection, and hence a very real need to be there for them every day. There are also the factors within the UN, where we are divided by the way we are governed and funded, with the large proportion of funds received targeted for shorter term needs, and not enough for helping to rebuild institutions that will govern judiciously, provide essential local services, invest in sustainable agriculture and ensure greater access and quality of education, health and dignity for all Somalis. Camel yoghurt to coding: Showing (or paving) the way for longer-lasting transformations There are pilot efforts supported by several UN entities, to innovate and to test out new ventures. And this provides the evidence that says this different path is also present, albeit a slim and less trodden one: to accompany the ingenuity and smarts of young people, who see a different future for themselves. During my short stay, I talked to young entrepreneurs who see bottled spicy ketchup and not the wasteful dumping of an abundance of tomatoes at days end; and another animated group who wish to produce and export camel’s milk yoghurt to a Somali diaspora; also feisty leaders calling for women’s rights, and most amazingly Bilan Codes – yes, ‘women can code’ - a local group run by Zahra, who the men in the room said they also learnt their computer skills from, and here she was teaching the next generation of Somali women to code! These can be more than small pilot projects, to light the way for longer-lasting transformations. The UN leadership and Country Team in Somalia see the disconnect between this re-vision, and over a dozen years of our presence doing the same-same. They live and work through the presence of violence, and having lost colleagues to mortars and truck bombs, are rightly contained in their response. The UN team cannot and must not forego its humanitarian role and support, as many lives depend on it. However, the UN team is also trying to get behind a young Somalia willing to leap-frog the usual, by using IT and mobile apps, and moving, however tentatively, behind a new Constitution and a first-time one person-one vote election in 2021. Rewarding positive disruption To stay relevant to this story, we must bring what we know and what we do much more together in Somalia, and in so many more places, to disrupt the negative trends and to support positive change for: a safer urban growth, with more clean green energy, to invest in values-based governance and the protection of the rights and dignities of all people, to address positive technology solutions and cyber security, to mitigate climate shocks and adaption of consumption and production patterns, and to ensure meaningful education and jobs for young people. And more. To support countries such as Somalia progress on sustainable development, the UN will have to share capacities and resources, within and with others. And colleagues must be rewarded for innovating, being forward-leaning and taking on this way of working. I will not pretend to understand all the complexity, but before I blink, I do know this - our tired rules that keep us silo’d, aversion to risk given programmes under daily stress from security concerns, and agency-first mentalities that limit what we can do together, do not belong here. We have a team on the ground, more-or-less ready to brave the new path. The current UN reforms that are underpinned by a call to invest in prevention and longer term sustainable development, that demand more efficient business operations, that expect shared bold analytics and higher levels of accountability to the people we serve, shout out to be demonstrated in this country context. Agency leaders, funders and rule-makers must let this UN country team show the way. Photo: UNHCR / S.Ostermann / October 2014
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