Ask Men to Share Housework: Meet the Woman Who Petitioned PM Modi

Over 75,000 women, from across India, signed the petition asking PM Modi to tell Indian men to share housework.

Published
Gender
3 min read
Over 75,000 women, from across India, signed the petition asking PM Modi to tell Indian men to share housework.
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"Does the handle of a broom come printed with the words: 'To be operated by women only'?"

"What about the manual of the washing machine or gas stove? Then why is it that most men are not doing their share of the housework!"

These are the words written by Subarna Ghosh, in her Change.Org petition, urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and ask Indian men to share household chores.

Based out of Mumbai, Ghosh is the co-founder of BeRight Foundation, an NGO that works predominantly with reproductive rights.

The coronavirus pandemic and the resulting nationwide lockdown meant that Ghosh was suddenly juggling a full-time job, cleaning the house, cooking for her family of four, washing the dishes – to a point where she was "exhausted" at the end of every single day.

While her husband, who works in the corporate sector, tried to pitch it, there was always a disbalance in the household chores shared by them.

“The main issue was that there was a very clear disbalance in the division of labor at home. Clearly, I was mainly bearing the burden of housework. And it was not fair. I tried everything and nothing seems to be working. There is this constant exhaustion at the end of the day and this feeling of being a part of a very unfair deal. That made me start the petition.”
Subarna Ghosh, NGO Worker & Petitioner

5 Hours Vs Half Hour

This is not the story of one woman. On an average, Indian women in urban India spent 312 minutes – at least 5 hours – on unpaid care work every day, according to International Labour Organisation study.

Urban Indian men, on the other hand, spend 29 minutes – less than half an hour – doing unpaid care work. The coronavirus pandemic has only widened this gap.

Over 75,000 women, from across the country, have signed the petition at the time of writing this article.

“I signed this petition because I truly believe that Indian men are not geared to support their mothers or wives with household chores. Especially, in this lockdown, even when they see their wives struggling to balance their office work with house work, they do not yet think of offering help. This needs to change.”
Wrote one woman who signed the petition

Not only do women bear the burden of household chores, many are also under pressure to follow the “commands of their husband.”

“During the lockdown, women are working from home, managing the household chores, taking care of the children and all these things, besides following the commands of their husbands. He would say, ‘get me coffee’, ‘get me tea’, ‘finish this’, ‘I want lunch by 1 o’clock’ and she has to follow.”
Wrote another woman

Why PM Modi?

Ghosh wants PM Modi to talk to Indian men and tell them to bear their share of the burden.

"If Prime Minister Narendra Modi can inspire us to light lamps and clap in solidarity, he can inspire us to correct an unfair norm that discriminates against women in every home,” the petition states.

Speaking to The Quint, Ghosh said:

“I mean, housework is a very very valuable contribution to society and it is still being called a non-economic activity, it is being devalued and when the nation’s leader and someone who is an influencer like our prime minister talks about it to men, I am sure the perception of housework is going to change.”
Subarna Ghosh, NGO Worker & Petitioner

What Changes Does She Hope to See?

Quoting an Oxfam report, Ghosh said that women put in 3.26 billion hours of unpaid care work globally per day and if that load is shared, more women can join the paid workforce.

“Firstly, we women we just don’t want to be left behind. We want to be participating in the paid economy as well. We want to go out and work. And if they (men) don’t share the load, it is becoming very very difficult for us to do that. Only 23 percent women are participating in the workforce.”
Subarna Ghosh, NGO Worker & Petitioner

She also added that she wanted women to “stop feeling guilty” about asking men to share the workload.

“We are not playing a blame-game here. What we are trying to do is to create a more balanced family structure. A much more balanced division of labor,” said Ghosh.

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