Men’s involvement in domestic chores and caregiving matters, as revealed by the growing body of studies emerging from around the world over the last two decades.
There is clear evidence of the positive impact of men’s involvement in care, especially on maternal and child health, child cognitive development, women’s empowerment, as well as on men’s own health and well-being. However, available data on the influence of fatherhood and caregiving in Brazil are still insufficient to establish a clear picture of the state of fathers in the country.
Equimundo launched the first report on the State of Brazil’s Fathers in September 2016 to highlight these limitations and to stimulate additional research by government agencies, academic institutions, independent researchers, NGOs and other stakeholders in the country.
The need to promote fatherhood and care is directly related to the movement to overcome inequalities between men and women. Studies reveal that men do not undertake their share of domestic tasks and care work. According to a survey conducted by the International Labour Organization, “women perform at least two and a half times more unpaid domestic work and care-related work than men.” (ILO, 2016). These figures are confirmed by the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES), conducted by Equimundo and partners in Brazil.
When men take equal responsibility for unpaid housework and care, they open space for women to develop professional skills as well. According to data from the World Bank, women today are about 40% of the workforce in the world.
As the report notes, investing in policies that value the role of men as caregivers has the potential not only to empower women, but also to deconstruct a dominant model of masculinity – a patriarchal and macho model – that reinforces gender inequality, opening the way for the construction of alternative models of masculinity based on affection and care.
The report highlights a variety of family arrangements and their relation to fatherhood and caregiving, addressing the need to support sexual diversity and include homosexual parents in the conversation. Both the discrimination against and social invisibility of fatherhood among these men comes in part from their challenging of rigid and harmful preconceived ideas about gender, sexuality, and caregiving.
The study highlights the health sector as an essential institutional entry point for promoting involved fatherhood and men’s care work. In Brazil and in other contexts, the report provides examples of the positive impact of this approach on the health of women, children, and men.
The report also calls on the private sector to adapt their labor relations, corporate procedures, and internal policies to advance social justice and gender equality. In particular, flexible schedules, support for breastfeeding, as well as for prenatal consultations, visits to health services, and adequate access to public day care centers are on the list of actions that can be adopted and supported by employers. These resources must be extended to women as well as to men so that all can share the work of caregiving.
An important recent breakthrough in Brazil’s support of involved fatherhood was the extension of paternity leave from 5 to 20 days (for public employees and companies enrolled in the Citizen Company program). The expansion took place as a result of the adoption of the Legal Framework of Early Childhood in 2016 (Law 13,257, sanctioned by President Dilma on March 8, 2016), which brings an understanding of parental involvement and the rights of young children. The increased paternity leave was achieved through efforts by the National Early Childhood Network, in which Equimundo is a working group member. Although still far from sufficient – a reality in countries that currently have the best indicators of gender equity around the world – this advancement in paternity leave is considered a breakthrough in Brazil and for other countries in the Global South.
Learn more in the first State of Brazil’s Fathers report, available here.