Suggested interview questions about unpaid care work

Gender equalitySocial issues

Notes to broadcasters

These questions have been developed to help you conduct interviews with girls and women who engage in unpaid care work. These individuals work under difficult conditions and face many injustices. These questions will enable you to gather their experience on how they live through this.

You should also talk to specialists in the community, or from a community or national organization offering protection services, training, legal knowledge, and support to affected individuals. This may include people working for women’s groups, local youth associations, local offices of international organizations in Mali such as WILDAF, UN Women, and l’association de défense des femmes et des filles (the Association for the Defense of Women and Girls.)

You might also find individuals working in local ministries who deal directly with social issues, especially concerning women and the family. You may need to interview several people to understand the range of women’s and experts’ experiences with unpaid care work.

Some or all of the questions you ask women involved in unpaid care work could apply to specialists too, in to get more detail and explanation. It is good to remember that the success of any interview depends on active listening. During the interview, active listening will enables you to ask follow-up or clarification questions to enhance the quality of communication. It should make the interviewee feel truly heard, understood, supported, and trusted.

Remember, a conversation with the media can be as beneficial as it can be harmful to the interviewees. Any conversation can be therapeutic or traumatic, depending entirely on its content. A conversation about trauma is akin to reopening wounds. Thus, it is crucial to be sensitive to your subjects’ feelings.

Significant myths and misinformation might arise during these discussions. Ensure that you address these with the people you are interviewing, as well as other myths that prevail in the community.

Lastly, the terms that come up in your discussions might be technical or scientific. Always ask the interviewees to explain these concepts in a clear and simple manner so that every listener can understand. Even if you understand them, your listeners might not.


Suggested questions for unpaid care workers (women)

1. We are here to discuss unpaid care work—the work done at home and for the benefit of the family, without payment. To start, please introduce yourself and tell us about your family.

a. What is your name, your age, your marital status? Where do you live? How many children do you have? Does anyone else live at home with you?

2. Tell us about the nature of your unpaid work at home. I expect that you contribute a lot to your household. Please describe a typical day and your primary responsibilities.

a. What tasks take the majority of your time?
b. When do you usually start your day? Do you get any breaks?
c. How much time do you spend on cooking? Cleaning? Nursing sick family members? Other tasks?
d. Do you need to travel long distances to collect water or firewood or to complete other tasks?
i. If yes, how far do you travel? How long does this take?
e. To successfully accomplish your tasks, what materials, time, and support do you need?
f. Are there parts of your work that you particularly appreciate? Parts that you find particularly challenging or tedious?

3. How have your unpaid care responsibilities changed over the course of your life? Perhaps you were responsible for different tasks when you were younger. Perhaps you contributed to your household as a child. Tell us about this.

a. Do you spend more time on household tasks now, or at another point in your life? Please explain.
b. What household chores were you responsible for as a child? Were your siblings responsible for household chores? How about your male siblings?
c. Have you received more support to complete your household chores at different times in your life?
i. If so, who supported you and how?
d. Were your tasks easier or harder at other times in your life than they are now? Please explain.

4. Has your unpaid care work limited your ability to participate in other activities—like school, paid work, hobbies, community groups? Please explain.

a. If yes: If you didn’t have so much responsibility at home, what would you do with your time? (Explore whether the person is interested in income-generating work, education, career training, self-improvement, taking care of their health, and community groups. If they do, get information on what interests them about these activities, how much time it might take, and the benefits to them and their family.)
b. If yes: Did your household responsibilities stop you from pursuing studies? How far did you pursue your education? How did you feel seeing friends pursue their education?
c. Have you had a paid job or participated in community or political groups? When did you do this? How did you balance it with your household responsibilities?
d. Were you trained in a job or have you done any farming? If so, for how many years? Are you still working or farming? Do you or did you enjoy it?
i. If you stopped, why did you stop? What led to the decision to stop?
ii. How did your husband feel about you working outside the house?

5. How do your family members (parents, siblings, husband, etc.) feel about your contributions to the household?

a. Do they show appreciation for your work?
b. How do you wish they showed their appreciation?

6. How do you feel about performing unpaid care work? Do you feel fulfilled? Please explain your response.

a. You do a lot of work to keep your family happy and healthy. Have there been any occasions when you have felt devalued due to your unpaid care work? If so, please explain.
b. Are you able to talk about your frustrations or other feelings related to doing unpaid care work? If so, who can you talk to?
c. What helps you feel motivated again?

7. Do your husband and your children perform any unpaid care work? Please explain

a. What is your husband’s attitude to helping with household responsibilities?

8. What happens when you need to take a break from household work because you feel ill or for any other reason?

a. Do you receive support? Does anyone complete your usual tasks?
b. How does your family react in these moments?

9. Looking forward, what would help make your work easier?

a. Do you know of any government services that could support you?
b. Do you wish that the government or NGOs offered services that would make your work easier? Any suggestions?
c. In the future, your children may have to figure out how to manage the responsibilities of caring for a household. How do you hope they manage this? Are you teaching your children anything about this?

Suggested questions for representatives of women’s rights groups

1. Unpaid care work is not a well-understood concept. Please explain it.

a. Who is generally responsible for unpaid care work in your area or country?
b. Typically, in your area or your country, what tasks are men responsible for and what tasks are women responsible for when it comes to unpaid care work?
c. How many hours a day do women typically spend on unpaid care work? And men?
d. And how are children typically involved in household chores?

2. Unpaid care work benefits families, but also communities and society in general. Please tell us about the economic and social impact of unpaid care work.

a. What benefits does unpaid care work have for society?
b. What challenges do women as unpaid care workers generally face in managing their tasks?

3. The prevailing attitude is that women are responsible for the vast majority of unpaid care work in the home and community. What actions can be taken to change this attitude and to reduce and redistribute women’s workload?

a. What kinds of actions can be taken at school?
b. What kinds of actions can be taken at home through parenting?
c. What kinds of actions can be taken by men?
d. What kinds of actions can be taken by the community?
e. What kinds of actions can be taken by governments?
f. What kinds of actions can be taken by employers?
g. What kinds of actions can be taken by civil society organizations and NGOs?

4. How can husbands and children, communities, the private sector, and government better recognize the value of women’s unpaid care work and make it more visible?

5. What support services are currently provided by government, NGOs, employers, etc. to make unpaid care tasks easier and improve the lives of unpaid care workers?

a. What health services are available? Social services? Food programs?
i. Do these services adequately meet women’s and families’ needs? If not, how could they be improved?
b. Are there new services that government, NGOs, employers could offer to make unpaid care responsibilities easier?
c. Are there best practices from other areas that we could learn from?
d. Are governments or other actors taking steps to make tasks such as collecting water and firewood easier for women? Please explain.
e. Are governments or other actors subsidizing, promoting, or encouraging new technologies or infrastructure that can reduce women’s workload? Please describe.

6. Are there any government policies with regards to unpaid care work?

a. Has there been any movement within the political sphere with regard to this issue in recent years? Please explain.
b. What are the barriers to protecting and supporting women doing unpaid care work?
i. How can these barriers be overcome?
c. Why do women need protection and support?
d. What roles can men play to protect and support women unpaid care workers?


Contributed by: Cheick Coulibaly, journalist-teacher at the Maarif Foundation, Fraternity Production, Bamako, Mali

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