World’s girls struggling with "curriculum of chores"

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 15 May 2014 17:45 PM
Author: Plan International
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 “If my little brother dirties his clothes, I wash them” - Rosybel, Dominican Republic

Girls as young as four are juggling their schoolwork with a ‘curriculum of chores’ to help their families survive, reveals Plan International’s Real Choices, Real Lives study. The study – which forms part of the children’s development organisation’s Because I am a Girl campaign supporting quality education for girls – follows 142 girls living in nine countries, to provide a detailed picture of their lives. Yet it now reveals a growing number of mothers and grandmothers are working to ensure homework takes precedence over housework...

  • Girls in developing countries, such as Noelia from the Dominican Republic, take on domestic chores from a young age. While work typically starts as part of their play routine, these young girls gradually take on more responsibilities imitating the daily work of their mothers and grandmothers to help their families.

    Photo: Plan

  • Looking after her younger sibling is part of Sipha from Cambodia’s daily routine. “Sipha wakes up at 6am, cleans her teeth and takes a bath on her own,” says her mother Han Ra. “She helps to take care of my small baby and has breakfast before she walks to school. In the afternoon, she looks after her brother when he is sleeping.”

    Photo: Plan

  • “Before going to school, I sweep the room,” reveals Marcelle, from Benin, who says it takes her about five minutes to complete this chore every day.

    Photo: Plan

  • For Chariya, from Cambodia, her curriculum of chores has been varied since she was six. “I help to carry wood so my father can build the chicken cage. After school, my mother asks me to cook rice and help my older sister carry water,” says Chariya.

    Photo: Plan

  • Rosybel, from Dominican Republic, takes care of her younger brother on a regular basis to help her mother. “Girls don’t play with cars because they are not male, and boys should not play with dolls,” says Rosybel. “My younger brothers cannot do chores at home, only we girls. If my little brother dirties his clothes I wash them.”

    Photo: Plan

  • Yet a number of families are now bucking the trend. According to her mother, Nika from Cambodia isn’t allowed to do her chores regularly. “Nika knows how to wash dishes, cook rice and clean the house,” says her mother. “But I dare not let her do it alone. I want my child to do homework only.”

    Photo: Plan

  • Noelia’s grandmother, Mercedes, has reorganised her household duties so she has time for homework. “I would like my grandchildren to remember what I wanted them to be, that they learn, that they study, that I never said, ‘Don’t go to school today because you have to wash the clothes,’” says Mercedes. Noelia now spends 15-30 minutes completing her chores.

    Photo: Plan/Ricardo Piantini

  • As for Lorena, seven, from Brazil, she’s already started challenging stereotypes and gaining a sense of empowerment and hope. “I think men and women can do the same activities in the same way. My dad doesn’t help my mother. I think he could help my mother,” says Lorena.

    According to Plan’s Because I am a Girl campaign, 1 in 5 girls around the world is denied an education by the daily realities of poverty, violence and discrimination.
    Plan International’s CEO Nigel Chapman says, “An educated girl is less vulnerable to violence, less likely to marry and have children when still a child herself and more likely to be literate and healthy into adulthood – as are her own children. Her earning power is increased and she is more likely to invest her income for the benefit of her family, community and country. It is not an exaggeration to say educating girls can save lives and transform futures.”

    Photo: Plan

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