Girls between 5 and 14 years old spend about 160 million more hours a day than boys doing unpaid household chores.

The tasks include collecting water and firewood, cooking, and even adult responsibilities, like taking care of other members of the family. The data was released by a UNICEF report ahead of the International Day of the Girls on October 11. The document is the first global estimate that took into consideration how much time girls spend on doing chores compared with the time they have to study and being a child.

African girls
Malian girls. Image credit:

The report shows how disproportionate is the burden of domestic work for girls between 5 and 9 years old that are forced to cook, clean, bring water, collect firewood and taking care of other members of the family. When they get older it gets worse: girls between 10 to 14 years old spend 50 percent more time than boys helping with chores.

One of the most concerning things is that some of the tasks, like collecting water and firewood, expose the girls to be sexually assaulted, and still, their families force them to do so. Among the chores, girls have to take care of children and other members of the family, a task that should be carried out by adults.

Despite spending more than 160 million hours of their days helping the family and the house, what girls do is less visible than what boys do, and it is often undervalued. This tendency promotes gender stereotypes and the burden for both girls and women in each generation.

Anju Malhotra, UNICEF’s Principal Gender Advisor, stated that the too many house chores and family responsibilities begin in early childhood for girls, and the burden intensifies when they reach adolescence. Malhotra said that as a result, girls have to sacrifice many opportunities, such as going to school, studying, and even the chance of living their childhood.

Among the report’s highlights, the data shows that in South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, girls spend nearly twice the amount of time on household chores, when compared to boys. In Yemen, Somalia, and Burkina Faso, girls between 10 and 14 years old have to deal with the most disproportionate burden of hours when it is compared with how many chores boys are forced to do. Somali girls are the ones that spent more time doing chores.

Helping girls is helping the world to accomplish U.N. Sustainable Development Goals

If the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda is meant to be fulfilled, helping girls and women around the world must be every country’s focus, because their cause is related to most of them.

The Sustainable Development Goals set out a vision for universal progress, including no poverty, quality education, decent work and economic growth, reduced inequality, and gender equality.

African girls
“The overburden of unpaid household work begins in early childhood and intensifies as girls reach adolescence,” said UNICEF’s Principal Gender Advisor Anju Malhotra. Image credit: Pierre Holtz for UNICEF.

“Quantifying the challenges girls face is the first critical step towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goal on gender equality and breaking down barriers that confront the world’s 1.1 billion girls,” said UNICEF Chief of Data and Analytics Attila Hancioglu.

The new report is an opportunity to change how the world treats girls; to advance their well-being and empowerment. The report was titled: Harnessing the Power of Data for Girls. Taking stock and looking ahead to 2030.

Besides chores, girls are exposed to other problems, including violence, female mutilation, child marriage and prohibition to be educated. The SDG’s seek to empower girls with knowledge, skills, and resources to help them reach their full potential, and that means less time helping with the house and more time being a child.

Assuring girls’ rights is not only good for them but for the world, because more educated and respected people can promote economic growth, reduced poverty and bring peace to this planet. Girls need to be protected if the world wants to progress.

Source: UNICEF