International Day of the Girl Child

©UNI199768 A young girl in Uganda carries her sibling on her back and firewood on the head. Girls always bear the burden of doing most of the house chores

The Sustainable Development Goals set out an ambitious plan for universal progress on the most pressing issues to humanity over the coming 14 years. The SDGS are "for all nations and people and for all segments of society", meaning that we will leave no one behind. This includes 1.1 billion girls.

Girls and Household Work

The burden of unpaid household work begins in early childhood for girls and intensifies as they reach adolescence. Girls age 5 to 14 years old spend 40 per cent more time, or 160 million more hours a day, on unpaid household chores and collecting water and firewood compared to boys their age.

The countries where girls between 10 to 14 years old bear the most disproportionate burden of household chores compared to boys are;

- Burkina Faso - girls spend 16 hours a week compared to boys who spend 7 - Yemen – girls spend 16 hours a week compared to boys who spend 8 - Somalia - girls spend 26 hours a week compared to boys who spend 16

The types of chores girls spend their time on – cooking, cleaning, caring for family members, collecting firewood and water – can limit a girl’s outlook on her goals and aspirations early in life. It also limits the time a girl has to pursue her full potential.

Girls’ contributions are less visible and undervalued as families and communities rarely value domestic work and income-generating activities equally.

Too often, adult responsibilities are imposed on girls caring for family members, including other children. Time spent on chores limits a girl’s time to play, socialize with friends, study and be a child.

©UNI148579 Ismahan, 13, holding her sleeping 3-year-old sister, attends an arithmetic class, in Al Miskin Allawendi school for displaced children, in Waberi District in Mogadishu, the country’s capital. She looks after the younger child while her parents work. The Go To School Initiative was launched today in the capital and across the country.

Collecting firewood and water away from the home can put girls at risk of sexual violence.

Quantifying the invisible barriers facing girls, such as the 550 million hours a day they spend on unpaid household chores, will help remove obstacles for girls and contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal on gender equality.

Laws, policies and programmes must acknowledge that the female burden of unpaid household work begins in early childhood and intensifies over time. Girls need specific support to succeed at school and safe spaces to socialize with friends, play sports and be a child.

There must be investments in infrastructure and products to reduce the time girls and women spend on domestic work. This includes better technologies that bring water supplies closer to where people live, increased access to electricity, child care support, and innovations that can reduce the amount of time it takes to perform household chores. Investments in more robust data on girls are urgently needed.

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