Challenge Poverty…By Putting Men in The Kitchen! by Jenny

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Last week was Challenge Poverty Week in Scotland. And yes, it’s been raining so hard that you could be forgiven for not peeking out from under your hood as you dash to the bus stop, hoping this won’t be one of those times you wind up knee deep in a puddle. But if you did get a chance to stop and look around, there was a lot going on.

Pollok Health Centre in Glasgow held a drop in-session last Wednesday, raising awareness of the benefits and support many people don’t know they’re entitled to. The Poverty Alliance Annual Conference took place on Thursday 19 October in Glasgow Royal Concern Hall, discussing the impact of Brexit and its likely effect on those in need of social support.

In Priesthill a community breakfast brought people together, offering support and information, while in Drumchapel an anti-loneliness day offered singing, knitting and arts and crafts as free entertainment for those whose low income leaves them isolated.

And that’s not to mention all the blogs, videos and online campaigns available at the click of a mouse!

But there was one statistic that particularly caught my eye…that in last year’s Scottish Government report, 19% of single women pensioners were in poverty after housing costs, compared with 14% of men.

Why is this? The recent Gender Equality Index report suggests that it stems largely from the traditional role women continue to play- that of the housekeeper, carer and cook. In the UK, 85% of women report doing cooking and/or housework every day, as opposed to 49% of men.

In addition, 41% of women report caring for children, grandchildren or elderly relatives every day, as opposed to 25% of men. The study also shows that women continue to work fewer hours than men in paid employment, leading to lower wages, lower pensions and stunted economic prospects. This has to change.

So, are we asking for all men to turn into a Jamie Oliver/Supernanny combination? No. (Well, we can dream). The SNP pledge to increase the offer of free childcare from sixteen to thirty hours a week is a good start, but this will only apply to children over the age of three and doesn’t address the burden of housework and care for elderly relatives.

We need to move beyond these things being seen as a ‘woman’s domain’. Otherwise, women will quite rightly feel that with clothes to wash, food to cook, children to mind and a house to clean, they don’t have the time or the energy to hold down a full time career.

Men aren’t unaffected by discrimination either though. If women are going to split domestic chores, more men may feel they need to cut their hours in order to balance themselves between work and the home. We need to move beyond the concept of ‘part time’ as something only available to women with children and remove the rigidity of the five day working week as a ‘must’ for a man who wishes to advance his career.

So what can we do? Challenge. Challenge stereotypes. Challenge employers. Challenge a system that has almost one fifth of our female population over sixty five living in poverty.

And challenge your fathers, boyfriends, husbands and sons to crack out the chopping board…they might even enjoy it!

Picture courtesy of Kevin Harber

Jenny is a trainee doctor working on the south side of Glasgow. She has previously volunteered in Nepal where she helped raise awareness of maternal health and was inspired by the strong women in rural communities. She is particularly interested in the empowerment of women through education and support for working mothers. She loves running, cooking and setting the world to rights over a bottle of wine. Find her on Instagram @jenrob_13 and on Twitter @jenrob_13
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