The contemporary international development agenda addresses several important gender issues, including the contribution of unpaid care work (UCW) to human well-being. The inclusion of UCW into the mainstream policy debate is undoubtedly a major milestone in the history of feminist scholarship and activism. However, we argue that the universalistic and capitalocentric assumptions laden in the dominant policy discourse belie the diversity of the lived experiences and subjective meanings of UCW often performed by women and girls in different cultural and geographical contexts, particularly in the predominantly agrarian global South. We draw on participatory and visual ethnographic fieldwork to show that rural women in Tanzania perceive UCW as an experience that entails not only physical toil and drudgery, but also positive emotions of joy, satisfaction, and fulfilment, which are integral to affirming their self-perceived identities and roles as farmers and mothers in their communities. These material, affective, and symbolic dimensions of UCW emerge from agrarian women’s situated knowledges and experiences of ensuring household social reproduction on and with the land, as well as the gender relations and seasonal dynamics that shape the organization of work tasks in agrarian landscapes. To achieve transnational gender justice, we suggest that a more fine-tuned and nuanced approach to understanding the variability and complexity of care work as practiced and perceived by heterogeneous groups of women (and men) in particular places and times is needed.
- social reproduction
- sustainable development goals
- unpaid care work
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Gender Studies
- Cultural Studies
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)