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Girls’ Burden of Unpaid Care

A photo of two girls


In our Real Choices, Real Lives study, we explore the lives of 142 girls across nine countries – shining a light on their opportunities, choices and realities.

Girls’ voices and perspectives are often overlooked, leaving a gap in understanding what gendered differences mean for their day-to-day lives and futures. This is despite evidence that girls aged 5-9 spend 30% more time on work around the home than boys the same age. For girls aged 10-14, this is as high as 50%.

This year, we focused our research on understanding how the work girls do at home affects their lives. We see that the expectations on girls to take on increasing unpaid care responsibilities as they grow up often leaves them finding it hard to ‘fit everything in’, affecting their schooling and limiting their time for play and socialising.

Photo of a girl washing

Unpaid care work

The burden on girls

As the girls in our study turn 11, we're looking at how unpaid work at home impacts their lives.


Nimisha lives in a semi-rural area in one of the poorest communities in Uganda, with her parents and siblings. They regularly struggle with sickness, and this year Nimisha’s malaria was so bad that she struggled at school as a result. 

Nimisha says she spends nearly 10 hours a day on household chores. She does the housework with her mother and practices reading with her father. It is difficult to see where she can find time for her schoolwork with her illnesses and the chores she is expected to complete taking up most of her time.


Davy is from Cambodia and lives with her elderly grandfather, two older siblings and two younger siblings. Her father is disabled after losing a leg and her mother is the family’s sole breadwinner. Housework is split between Davy, her mother and her older sister. 

Davy spends around two hours a day on chores, but she accepts the fact that chores are split according to gender and that the females do the bulk of the housework. She says she sometimes misses school to help her mother or look after her brother, but her mother reports that she is never absent from school and only helps with a small portion of firewood collection.


Valeria lives in El Salvador with her grandmother and aunt. She believes that being a good girl means being obedient and listening to your parents – it means doing chores and not fighting. 

Valeria does errands including going to the clinic, to the port to do shopping and also takes care of her sick mother at times. She says she ‘hardly goes to school’ because of some of these responsibilities. 

Valeria believes that it is important for girls to go to school, and she has ambitions to study up until university level and become a nurse. 

Real Choices, Real Lives

Find out more about the study and read previous updates