International advocacy work

Together with our international partners Action Aid International and Oxfam, we are working to raise the policy visibility of women’s care work within social protection and poverty reduction strategies. As a direct result of our work in Bangladesh and Indonesia, unpaid care work has been included within high level public policy planning activities. In both countries, the response to these efforts has highlighted the appetite among engaged pro-gender equality policymakers and practitioners for modes of engagement and research outputs tailored to improving the gender-sensitivity of policies and practice through recognition of unpaid care work.

Our activities


In March IDS researchers attended the 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York. The Institute co-organised two parallel events including 'Sustainable Women’s Economic Empowerment: Looking Beyond Labour Force Participation' which challenged understandings of women’s economic empowerment that neglect the issue of care. Researchers provided recent evidence from the field on the everyday challenges women face in balancing their paid and unpaid work. Find out more here on Interactions.

The Who Cares animation was screened at 'Sharing the care: how to recognize, reduce, and redistribute' on 14 March in the UN headquarters, New York. The Commission on the Status of Women side event focused on recognizing and valuing unpaid care work as a strategy to advance gender equality as well as economic development. Expert speakers debated which data, policies, and programs can truly revolutionize and advance the unpaid care agenda. This event also launched the new MenCare parental leave platform.


From 22-23 January, a Global Care Advocacy Workshop was held in Bangkok, Thailand, co-hosted by the Asia Pacific Forum for Women Law and Development, ActionAid International, Helvetas Nepal and IDS. It brought together activists, researchers and practitioners from a diverse group of national and international civil society organisations, who are engaging in international advocacy on care work – both paid and unpaid – from a human rights and feminist perspective. The workshop is part of ongoing work to raise the policy visibility of the intersection between women’s unpaid care work and their access to decent work. In 2015, as the Global Goals for Sustainable Development (SDGs) were negotiated and finalised; the Global Advocacy Workshop was an opportunity to reflect on what more needs to be done to ensure women’s paid and unpaid care work is addressed in the SDGs and beyond.

The 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) took place in March 2015. Interactions was there to follow the dicussion on care work.

Global Goal 11 to ‘make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’ demonstrates a belief by governments in the critical role cities have to play in addressing poverty and inequality. But how do we make cities more inclusive and secure? Amongst the Goal’s targets is the aspiration to provide access to safe, inclusive and accessible public spaces for women. How can this be achieved in a context of rising urban conflict and violence? In a presentation to the ‘From Urban Exclusion to Inclusive Urbanisation’ workshop hosted by IIED, IDS and UNFPA and being held in London from 28-30 October 2015, IDS researcher Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed outlined the particular challenges urban women face in accessing the increased social, economic, and political opportunities available to them in cities. Read her presentation.


Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed from the IDS research team gave a keynote speech at the 2014 International Colloquium 'Childhood in Feminine: Girls' on Tuesday 2 December. The speech was on 'Unpaid Care Work and Girl’s Economic Empowerment.' The Colloquium took place from 2-4 December at the University of Barcelona, Spain.

On May 1 2014, IDS was invited to the Clean Cooking Conference organised by the World Health Organisation, Britain’s Department for International Development and the Global Alliances for Clean CookStoves to present on the impacts of cooking with solid fuels on the health, safety and economic opportunities of women and girls.

On Monday 7 April 2014, one of the team spoke on a panel during the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development workshop in Geneva, Switzerland. The talk, which was part of the event, New Directions in Social Policy, focused emerging concerns in gender equality and care work fields and the gaps of public policy in addressing care issues.

From Wednesday 12 February until Friday 14 February 2014, IDS hosted a three-day international workshop entitled Increasing Visibility of Unpaid Care in Policy Agenda: Learning from Local Strategies which brought together country partners from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Nigeria and Uganda to share key lessons learnt on making unpaid care work visible.

Download the workshop report

At the 58th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York in 2014, IDS participated in two side events dedicated solely to making unpaid care work visible in a post-MDG world and a third event, which recognised unpaid care work as a cross cutting issue for challenging stereotypes and building new alliances to address gender inequality post-2015.

  • The first event: 'Unpaid care work, poverty and human rights' was hosted by Permanent Missions of Finland and Uruguay, in collaboration with UN Women and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights. It focused on focus on the impact of unpaid care work on women’s rights to education, employment, decent work, political participation and leisure.
  • The second meeting, 'Making Unpaid Care Work Count in the Post-2015 Framework', was co-organised by ActionAid International, Centre for Women’s Global Leadership, IDS and the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, was an opportunity to discuss why unpaid care work is so critical to women’s human rights and gender equality.
IDS Research Fellow Deepta Chopra gave oral evidence at a UK Parliamentary inquiry on sustainable and inclusive jobs and livelihoods in developing countries. She attended the event on Tuesday 16 December to lead on women and unpaid care work. Mike Bird, Operation Manager at Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing will also be speaking. The Evidence Session was led by the International Development Committee.


On Monday 7 October 2013, ActionAid International, IDS and Oxfam hosted a meeting and panel discussion to reflect on the UN special report on unpaid care work and women’s human rights. The report by UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, argues that heavy and unequal care responsibilities are major barriers to gender equality and to women's equal enjoyment of human rights, and in many cases condemn women to poverty.

In May 2013, we participated in the expert meeting of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights in Geneva, where we shared our learning about what is working to raise the visibility of care on development policy agendas. Considerable effort has gone into supporting the development of thinking about the human rights of unpaid care workers, including through submissions to and reviews of the Rapporteur's report, and in co-organising a launch for the report with our partners Action Aid International.


In this interview UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Magdalena Sepulveda Carmona, explains what we mean by unpaid care work and the links between unpaid care work and human rights. The video was filmed at the UK launch of the UN special report on unpaid care work. 

Blog posts

Women’s Economic Empowerment Project, Addis Ababa - Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
We are pleased to be involved in a session at the What Works Global Summit in London from 26-28 September.Join us on Wednesday 28 September, 9-10.15 am, BO7, Birkbeck College, 43 Gordon Square.
With the Third International Conference on Financing for Development around the corner, financing for development is high on global agendas. The result of the conference will be an inter-governmentally negotiated and agreed outcome document, with the potential for great impact on the implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals.
Written by: Jenny Birchall
Nearly 60 percent of the nearly one billion people who go hungry every day are women and girls. They are the poorest of the poor, and they are most vulnerable in the global food system. A new BRIDGE Cutting Edge Report on Gender and Food Security provides a critical lens on the shocking global gender disparities that characterise food and nutrition insecurity.
Written by: Alexandra Spieldoch, Alyson Brody
‘Caregiving is not a male thing or a female thing. It is a human thing’, said Gary Barker at the launch of the first ever State of the World’s Fathers report in New York earlier this week.
Written by: Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed
Woman sits at a market stall in Nessemtenga, Burkina Faso
Naomi Hossain reflects on the Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility project and how it has forced her to rethink her own biases.
Written by: Naomi Hossain
Gender rights should be at the heart of discussions about equal rights: a message not being translated into progressive economic and social policies, argues Jenny Edwards
Written by: Jenny Edwards
In this blog Rosalind Eyben discusses a new Action Aid UK report - Close the Gap - which focuses on women's work. She makes links between inequalities for women in the labour market and the continuing burden they experience around unpaid care work. Feminists and women’s rights advocates have long been concerned about women’s inequality in the labour market.
Written by: Rosalind Eyben
In the run up to International Women’s Day, IDS’s Jenny Edwards asks ‘where next for progress on women’s rights?
Written by: Jenny Edwards
“There is a fine line between unpaid care work, domestic work and domestic servitude. Depending on the circumstances, an individual in a legitimate employment relationship to do domestic work may in fact be in domestic servitude, and in many situations unpaid care work is domestic servitude, which is a form of modern slavery'.” 
Written by: Rachel Moussié
All eyes are on 2015 as a pivotal year for the international development community. How are things looking for women’s equality in unpaid care work?
Written by: Amy Hall