Global Resources

Carework and caring: A path to gender equitable practices among men in South Africa?

Author: R. Morrell
Publisher: International Journal for Equity in Health
Publication Date: Dec 2011

To what degree can carework help men to foster gender equitable attitudes and practices? To help answer this question, researchers undertook a study in South Africa, with the purpose of examining the relationship between men who engage in carework, and their commitment to gender equity. A qualitative approach using semi-structured interviews focused on 20 men of different ages, backgrounds, and race in three South African locations.

The results of the study showed that men were engaged in different forms of carework and their motivations to be involved differed; some men did carework out of necessity, driven to it through poverty, illness, or a lack of resources, while others saw carework as part of a commitment to making a better world. When carework was seen as a purely functional activity, the experience generally failed to signify support for gender equity; only when care had an emotional resonance did it relate to gender equity commitment.

The authors concluded that:


  • Engagement in carework can precipitate a process of identity and value transformation in men, suggesting that support for carework still deserves to be a part of interventions to help ‘change men’.

  • Changing the gendered division of carework contributes to a more equitable gender division of labour, and challenges gender stereotypes.

  • Interventions that promote caring also advance gender equity.