Combining economic work and motherhood: challenges faced by women in sub-Saharan Africa

Waterhouse, Philippa; Bennett, Rachel; Aravinda, Guntupalli and Mokomone, Zitha (2021). Combining economic work and motherhood: challenges faced by women in sub-Saharan Africa. In: Baikady, Rajendra; Przeperski, Jaroslaw; Nadesan, Varishini; Islam, Rezaul and Jianguo, Gao eds. The Palgrave Handbook of Global Social Problems. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 1–19.



Women’s participation in the labour force can be a vehicle for gender equality and female empowerment. Female labour force participation in Sub-Saharan Africa is relatively high, but one key barrier for women realising their full potential in the labour market in Sub-Saharan Africa is the challenges associated with combining economic work and motherhood. Women’s role as workers can play an important role in economic development and poverty reduction, whilst their role as mothers can be critical to the achievement of goals related to children’s health and development. This chapter provides a review of existing knowledge and literature on challenges faced by women in SSA in combining economic work and motherhood. In doing this chapter will focus on three driving questions: (1) How do working mothers navigate childcare? (2) What are the consequences of women combining work and motherhood for maternal and child wellbeing?, and (3) What are the gaps in social protection for parents, particularly working mothers? A context-specific evidence-base is required for the development of policy, and this chapter concludes with a call for such research in SSA which pays particular attention to the barriers faced by women working in the informal sector in balancing their multiple roles and evaluations of interventions to facilitate the reconciliation of work and family for women.

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