Impact of lockdown on Working Mothers

As we come to the close of women’s month – an awareness month designed to champion women’s achievements and forge a gender equal world, there is no denying the fact that remote working has put so much pressure on working parents but from my experience and perspective, I feel working mothers have faced the most pressure.

The lockdown made me realize how much more consuming my wife’s job is than my own. Most often, men think that their work is more critical. Well, this myth was debunked for me during the lockdown. Seeing my wife juggling up close her office role with being a teacher for our children who were studying online, nursing everyone at home with some homemade remedies to protect us from Covid-19 (my wife had all of us steaming, drinking concoctions of ginger, lemon, and honey), ordering groceries online and cooking made me appreciate the fact that the lockdown was impacting her much more than myself.

According to data from the Centres for Disease Control (CDC), Covid-19 has killed more men than women. As for the effects of the pandemic on women, a quick online scan reveals media articles describing the heavy price mothers have paid and continue to pay for lockdowns. There is no doubt in my mind that the two lockdowns we have had in Rwanda have meant more care responsibilities for women. I have personally observed that the pandemic has disadvantaged more working mothers.

Even when I tried my best to help with our children, my wife was still doing much more. At the end of the day, she was more tired, because of balancing between parenting and office work.

Furthermore, statistics indicate that due to Covid-19 ‘blurred boundaries between work and home life have also had a disproportionate impact on the mental health of working mothers, with 90% facing a decline in their mental health during the last year’ (Trade Union Congress 2020).

With that realization, I recently had a meeting with working mothers at our office and discussed with them how we can be more supportive to them and to share some of the things we have agreed on at our office; having one day a week where we do not have any meetings, giving flexibility to working mothers on having at least a day to work from home post lockdown.

Women in Rwanda have been given voice and space to participate in all spheres of life: political, business, leadership, education, and health. Policies and programs have been put in place and implemented in a deliberate way to ensure girls and women are empowered at all levels. But the journey continues…

Vision 2050 has set gender equality and empowerment of women as one of its main aspirations for the national transformation and prosperity of Rwanda. Women are expected to contribute significantly to the overall economic production. The National Strategy for Transformation emphasizes women’s access to finance, creation of decent jobs, scaling up early childhood development programs, fighting Gender Based Violence (GBV) and strengthening institutions promoting gender equality and empowerment of women and girls.

Are men ready to do what it takes to support women and our country in achieving this aspiration? Is this the time for permanent behavior change? Husbands doing all morning routines with their children to allow working mothers to sleep in an extra hour, being more involved in household planning. In the workplace, making flexible working the norm, leading with empathy and trust, ensuring that reward, succession, and promotion processes address unconscious bias and above all, make diversity, respect and inclusion non-negotiables, ensuring they are experienced in your company’s everyday culture.

I hope going forward, we can all take to heart the message from His Excellency, President Kagame during Women’s Day celebration ‘’Gender equality is not just a women’s issue. There can be no progress without equal participation and opportunity for all. Each one of us has a role to play to ensure gender disparity and exclusion has no place in our future’’.

Happy Women’s Month 2021!