Meet Opheus: husband, father and change-maker

by Oxfam Canada | June 17, 2018
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In some parts of the world, women and girls spend as many as six hours a day completing unpaid care work. This vital contribution- that often goes unrecognised- can greatly limit a women’s ability to earn a living, participate in public life, and pursue an education. Men and boys are critical to changing this reality.

Paulina and Opheus were a typical couple in their village in the Zvishevane Region of Zimbabwe. Their household roles were defined by the social norms that have existed in their community for generations. Paulina was responsible for handling all of the unpaid care work, from collecting water to making sure the kids went off to school on time. Paulina did it all, with little or no time for herself.

After more than two decades of marriage, Paulina and Opheus joined the Oxfam WE-Care project. The We-Care project, delivered in a partnership with Unilever’s Surf brand, focuses on:

  • Helping society recognise that bearing the burden of unpaid care work limits women’s choices.
  • Improving water infrastructure and household equipment in order to reduce the time it takes to complete care work.
  • Working with communities, governments and companies to change attitudes so that household tasks are shared more equitably between women and men.

By providing a fuel-efficient wood stove and community outreach workshops, Opheus’ resistance to the idea of assisting Paulina with unpaid care work greatly softened. Meals no longer needed to be cooked on the floor while bending down, and time-saving improvements allowed the couple to share and divide household tasks.

“My husband wouldn’t cook because of the attitude in the community. He found it to be embarrassing. But after the workshops, he came to accept that this was all about helping each other.”

“Because we now work together, the whole family is happier.”

Opheus now helps Paulina with daily care work including cooking, farming, collecting water, cleaning and laundry. As a result, Paulina now has time to make and sell reed mats. She is generating extra income for her family that she is putting towards her children’s education. Opheus has also begun teaching Paulina the art of tailoring on his sewing machine.

Today, Opheus is a husband, a father and a change-maker. He frequently gets called upon to lead community meetings, and a number of men in his community have begun following in his footsteps. He said,

“My family has changed a lot. The We-Care program enabled us to have love. Love leads to development. You can tell our progress by looking at our fields. Even other people appreciate our success”.

Sometimes, the most effective way to tackle poverty is the simplest solution. You just need a little love.

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