Time Poverty


Blisters on her feet, torn shoes, the sun pounding on her head, she is walking alone from collecting fuel in a region where rape is common, towards her hut where she will cook for hours and likely spend the rest of her day doing similar repetitive tasks.


Now just think about it, girls my age—just turning 18 and even younger, working 11-14 hours each day helping to run the household. I say working with an emphasis because they indeed are working, but without pay. It is not only important to address unpaid labor, but it is also important to realize these young girls, just a few thousand miles away, could be excelling academically if given the time and opportunity.


For women and girls in third world countries, the luxury of time can differentiate a life of following one’s own passions from stagnant household jobs. Time poverty was recently brought up by Melinda Gates in the letter from her and her husband Bill Gates. It is essentially the lack of time for women due to tasks that they must perform as caretakers of the family. The reliance on ancient cooking methods is one of the factors for the lack of time. Women spend time collecting fuel, building the heat, and finally cooking.


In her letter, besides time poverty, Melinda Gates also talked about the discrimination in regards to ‘unpaid labor’ that women experience after working in the household their entire lives. The three R’s, according to Gates, are as follows: the first R is to recognize the unpaid labor that happens at home, the second being to reduce this unpaid labor, and the third is to redistribute it so that there is increased gender equality. Women work as hard laborers at home but have no monetary compensation to show for their work. Money can be equated to independence, and independence is the first step towards equality for women.


Advocates and speakers for time poverty andequality were well represented at the United Nation’s Social Good Summit, which took place September 18-19, 2016. Leaders such as Radha Muthiah, CEO of the Global Alliance for Clean cookstoves, and Mary Robinson, climate justice advocate and former Prime minister of Ireland, urged us to recognize unpaid labor and speak out about it.


Time equals opportunity. The opportunity to do something amazing, something unique, and something game-changing. So what if we gave each of these women the means to be independent? We can start by replacing primitive cookstoves and give women the power to use the time saved to follow their passions in addition to making a significant positive impact on their health and survival.


You can check out the work that the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is doing to prevent 4 million deaths that result from poor cooking methods by changing the quality of life and bridging the gender gap at: http://cleancookstoves.org