Time poverty, especially as seen in the “double workday” of women, has long been a staple of discussion of women’s situation in Africa. Yet it is not always clear what is meant by time poverty, how time poverty is measured, or what actions are required to tackle time poverty once identified. The papers presented in this volume seek to address these questions by reviewing the existing literature and analyzing new data available in time use modules of household income and consumption surveys in several African countries.
Gender-differentiated time use patterns are affected by many factors, including household composition and life cycle issues (age and gender composition of household members), seasonal and farm system considerations, regional and geographic factors, including ease of access to water and fuel, availability of infrastructure, and distance to key economic and social services such as schools, health centers, financial institutions, and markets.
But social and cultural norms also play an important role both in defining, and sustaining rigidity in, the gender division of labor. This is most evident in the division of responsibilities between productive (market) and reproductive (household) work. In addition to their prominence in agriculture and in much of the informal sector, women bear the brunt of domestic tasks: processing food crops, providing water and firewood, and caring for the elderly and the sick, this latter activity assuming much greater significance in the face of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The time and effort required for these tasks, in the almost total absence of even rudimentary domestic technology, is staggering.