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This IDRC partnership with Global Affairs Canada seeks to scale solutions toward gender equality in unpaid care work in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Scaling Care Innovations in Africa initiative seeks to address one of the greatest barriers to gender equality: the disproportionate share of responsibility for unpaid care work that falls on women. This responsibility can be for direct care provided to children, the elderly, and people with disabilities and illness. It also includes domestic work and supervision.  

Co-funded by Global Affairs Canada and IDRC, the five-year initiative invests in solutions to redress gender inequalities in unpaid care through changes in policies and programs, including the adoption of new models and technologies that improve the lives of many sub-Saharan African women. 

Recognize, reduce and redistribute unpaid care work 

The Scaling Care Innovations initiative is guided by the triple “R” approach to the care economy, promoting actions that recognize, reduce and redistribute unpaid care work. It will support the scaling of impact within two streams: policy and program innovation. 

Organizations focusing on policy innovation will work to recognize unpaid care work and seek to scale care-centred policies, legislation and budgets through evidence-founded research. Organizations focusing on program innovation will work to reduce and redistribute unpaid care and seek to scale time-and-labour-saving technologies, family-friendly workplace models, access to affordable and quality care services and ways of shifting adverse social norms that perpetuate gender inequality in the care economy.  

Scale, community and capacity 

Scaling Care Innovations in Africa has three pillars of work: 

  • Supporting implementation research, by funding partners to  
  • foster innovations in their country  
  • scale the impact of promising and proven solutions  
  • drive policy actions to recognize, reduce and redistribute unpaid care 

With active engagement of local women’s rights organizations, project teams will generate knowledge and evidence to inform scaling pathways. 

  • Nurturing a community of practice by facilitating collaborations, peer-learning, and knowledge synthesis and sharing on unpaid care and women’s economic empowerment. 
  • Strengthening capacity by supporting training that is tailored to the needs of both the generators and users of knowledge on unpaid care, including women's rights organizations and governments. 

With new care policies and programs emerging from this initiative, the aim is to increase the participation of women and girls in the economic, educational, political and leisure activities of their choice. The knowledge generated will enable national and lower levels of governments to consider and act on the unequal distribution of unpaid care work responsibilities shouldered by women and girls through gender responsive planning and budget allocations. The initiative also aims to strengthen the participation of women’s rights and advocacy organizations in care policy dialogues, consultations and decision-making. 

Building on experience 

Addressing gender inequality in the care economy is a priority for the Government of Canada and IDRC, and the Scaling Care Innovations in Africa initiative will draw on the collective experience of both donor partners to reach its goals. 

Guided by IDRC’s approach to scaling science, the initiative will support tested policies and innovations that can be positioned to scale impact in ways that maximize benefits to society. This approach means that scaling is not necessarily about pushing up or out, because bigger outputs or more actions do not always lead to better impact. The focus will be on scaling impacts that are important to women and girls in different socio-economic contexts, ensuring their voices are heard in the process.  

This initiative also builds on the findings of previous and on-going IDRC partnerships such as Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women (GrOW) – East Africa and Transforming the Care Economy through Impact Investing.  

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