All people have the right to care services, which are related to individual and social survival. It is the way life reproduces in its material and symbolic dimension. It is vital for the maintenance and development of the social fabric, which is why there must be equity in its provision between the State, families, communities, private sector, men, and women.
The social and economic structure, as well as the patriarchal culture has imposed over women the role of unpaid care workers, deepening gender inequity in social, economic, and political life. Bogota’s Care System is an innovative step into achieving gender equity and providing care rights for every citizen.
After over a year of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, we have realized that care is the pillar upon which society stands. From the confinement of all daily activities, it became clear that there is a need for redistribution, recognition, and reduction of the burden of unpaid domestic care work that has fallen onto women. With this in mind, we developed a poll to understand the actual situation of women in Bogota. We received 344 responses between February 21st and March 14, 2021.
Among the most relevant results is the alarming percentage of women who lost their jobs: 84% of women who answered the poll said that they lost their jobs during the pandemic. According to the National Statistics Department of Colombia (DANE), in December 2020, the unemployment gap between men and women was the widest in 20 years, reaching 7.3%. Additionally, 51% of the people stated that domestic labor increased more than 3 hours during the pandemic, and 65.7% of women answered that their most important role is to take care of their homes and families. Of the women who consider that their main role is to take care of their home and family and that also lost their jobs during the pandemic, 55% consider their role as caregiver as the most important because they are mothers.
Social impositions and patriarchal practices are still a big part of Colombia’s culture. Insofar as the index of female unemployment continues to rise and we do not subvert the beliefs that naturalize the role of women as caregivers and translate into subsequent actions, gender equity starting at home will be difficult to achieve. It will also be harder to reduce the gap in the equitable distribution of unpaid domestic care work, and women will continue to lose their autonomy.
Therefore, it is imperative to develop public policies that offer decent opportunities for female employment and allow them to free time from unpaid care work so that they can gain more autonomy, changing the social perspective that women are the ones that have to take care of the family and the household while men are the ones that have paid jobs to provide for the family.
With the aim of achieving these goals, policy makers must consider the care networks that exist in the territory and have emerged as a response to communities in need of care services. These networks can be part of an associative scheme between communities and the State that can allow the Care System to reach as much territory as possible, freeing time for women and formalizing these activities.
During discussions of Bogota´s four year social and economic plan, known as the Development Plan for the city, we were able to amplify the definition of the Care System Program to include the perspective of caregivers and communities. We were able to amplify the aim of reducing and recognizing unpaid care work, expanding the scope of the program by including indirect care and including women’s human rights. We also included the goal of promoting the redistribution of unpaid care work between men and women and a specific monitoring index of perception, aiming to reduce the percentage of women and men that believe that women are better for household and care work than men.
Care is the pillar of society, but the economy of care has been long ignored by orthodox economists and policymakers all over the world. The time has come to switch the goals of development of our cities and to start focusing on the needs of care for all the citizens and the necessity to redistribute unpaid work to achieve a more equitable society through cultural change, provision of care services, and investment in infrastructure that seeks a dignified life for all.