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Honoring WOMEN'S contribution as a (additional) call for Unconditional Basic Income

March 9, 2021

We in UBI4ALL want to discuss the importance of March 8 – International Women’s day. Therefore, we decided to honor women this March, and we hope you join us in doing so. But first, let me start by sharing with you the story of 3 women, which is my personal way to honor them (and honor women) this March.

The first is Elisa. She is 40-ish, and I’ve known her for the past 8 years. She has 2 children, Giovanna and Edson, and she is from Guiné. She lives in the suburbs of Lisbon, and she has worked in house cleaning since I met her. She works tirelessly to provide for her children. Her husband works abroad, in Belgium, while she wakes up at 5 a.m. and returns at 11 p.m. She does not feel sorry for herself: she has decided to pick extra work to have a more comfortable life, for her and for her family. She loves dancing, she goes out with her friends a lot, and she is proud of their two children. She could not study in Guiné, and despite all the encouragement, she has not yet decided to go back to study in Portugal, partly because doing so with two young children is no easy task. She is free and independent. When covid19 broke out, she continued working, despite being fearful of getting sick. She told me that it was great that I was at home, but that not everyone could do so.

The second is Nathalie. She is 50-ish and was my former boss. She is French, living in Portugal for the past 27 years. She is tough and even judgmental at times, and very strong minded. She lived and studied in Paris. When she fell in love for a Portuguese man, she came to Portugal and while pregnant with a first child, she opened her company, the one I worked in. A ground-breaking and innovative company, now 27 years old.  She was in her twenties when she founded the company: in a male-dominated business world. We were all women in the company – 15 in total – but not by choice: man don’t seem to like sustainability that much, it seems. I always asked her how difficult it was to have 3 children, and grow a company from scratch. She always agreed motherhood (the work and the expectations from it) was the toughest challenge. She learnt how to take advantage of her womanhood and frenchness in the business world. She is braving through the pandemic, still managing her business, still being a mother to her children, and encouraging many, not least of them, me.

The third one was Maria Emilia. A mother and grandmother, who took care of her two children, and loved dearly her three grandchildren. She was the best cook in the family and the most opinionated and strong minded one. She kept her head strong, despite having suffered several tragedies throughout her life, alongside many joys. She grew up in a small and poor region of Portugal, and studied until 4th grade, as she was not allowed much more. When taking care of her children, she demanded to go to work, despite her husbands’ opinions, to help care and provide for the family. She was a “Portuguese” mother: she worked and took care of the family, of the house, braving all the storms with courage and an almost-supernatural force. I am not sure how many of these choices where her own. As a grandchild I only heard about most of these chapters in her live later on. But her strength and the significance of the work she did everyday taking care of her family (my family) is my great testimony of the role and the obligations that are carried on by women. And by doing so, she has inspired my mother to do the same, giving me both the greatest example of what women are.

I chose to tell you about these three women on purpose. They represent different life journeys, aspirations and certainly different times. For some, work and professional careers have been a lifelong achievement. For others, providing for their children is the paramount goal, to be able to have a better and more comfortable life than the one they had. Discussing the challenges women face is my responsibility as woman, and as a citizen. These stories translate what some of the numbers tell us:

  • 71% women in Portugal have paid jobs. From these, 55% juggle additional occupations, such as taking care of the children, taking care of households, or both.

Most strikingly is the amount of WORK women do and the TIME they have for themselves:

  • In Portugal, women who juggle both work and children, for example, work 13 hours a day, and have only 2:36 hours for themselves. Only 7:24 of the time is spent in paid work (so, just do the math…). Women who juggle work, children and a partner fare even worse: they work 13:24 hours, and have 2:12 hours for themselves.
  • 51% of women in Portugal feel their lives are very bellow the expectations they had. And 33% are unhappy with their lives.

These are only some results from a recent study conducted in Portugal. Situations might differ per country, and things have improved since my grandmother’s time in the 50s and 60s. Women of my generation are more likely to go to university, to be better paid (despite the wage gaps) and to share the burdens of house duty and family duty with their partners. But the under representation of women in politics and business is still a sign of the many sacrifices we have to do, and the many opportunities we are deprived of. And the over representation of women in care work – which is not valued, or underpaid and undervalued – is still a sign of the prejudices and the gender biases we face in society.

At this point you might wonder what Unconditional Basic Income can do about this. Some argue it can help emancipate women. Others fear the role it can have in keeping women excluded from the job market. I am not sure which is which, but in all my life, and my family’s life, and in Portugal history, women have been both workers’ and mothers, grandmothers and caregivers. They have been submissive while striving to be emancipated. They have worked double than men, in juggling all the responsibilities that have fallen upon them. I am not fearful that it could make us choose not to work. I am confident that Unconditional Basic Income could help us making our own choices, more in line with what we expect for our own lives.

We have discussed before how Basic Income has a way to impact those who are more marginalized or who are constricted in their daily lives”. I believe this could be the case for WOMEN.

Join us this March in celebrating the women you know, and who have inspired you. Help us celebrate you, as a woman, too. Share with us the many ways you believe Basic Income can help women to achieve their goals and ambitions.

I believe basic income could help all my fellow 51% of Portuguese women for whom life has not lived up to their expectations. Doing so would already be a victory, and one which I am willing to fight for. Join us this March in our Facebook and Instagram accounts, and share your story, or the stories of women who inspire you.

Catarina and the UBI4ALL Team

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