May 2019

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The Sociology and Social Work Units of the Department of Behavioural Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences have collaborated to host a roundtable discussion, “Intimate Labours: Women’s Experiences of Transnational Caregiving,” on February 1, with “skilled” and “highly skilled” returnees to Trinidad and Tobago who have chosen to fill the caregiving needs of ageing parents. In telling their stories, participants brought to life the intimate labours of care work, noting the reproduction of systematic inequalities.

Globally, women continue to do disproportionately more care work than men, which is persistently under-valued economically and socially. Commonalities articulated include: challenges of decision making with regards to livelihood opportunities; securing care with its financial and emotional implications; the gendered division of care work; complexities of navigating public and private health care options; managing and negotiating roles as daughter, worker, and returnee; coping and time for personal care.

Participants and organisers agreed that conversations around the power dynamics of the “private” sphere of the home and such intimate labours need to be further explored with the aim of providing support for caregivers as well as addressing institutional failures. For instance, all speakers emphasised the importance of family networks in successfully caring for parents in the absence of a robust institutional framework and reliable public health care facilities.

Members of the audience expressed interest by asking questions and contributing to the discussion, demonstrating the salience of this topic to many persons in Trinidad, across class, place of residence, and ethnicity. The organisers are embarking on a project with returning citizens to examine the gendered dimensions of care work for ageing parents in Trinidad and Tobago, and would like to deepen collaborations with staff and students with overlapping interests.

Dr Maria Gomes is a Lecturer in the Social Work Unit of the Department of Behavioural Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences.

Dr Shelene Gomes is a Lecturer in the Sociology Unit of the Department of Behavioural Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences.