A Day in the Life: Gender Roles

  • Objective: To explore and increase awareness of gender differences between women’s and men’s daily activities.
  • Materials/Preparation: Large sheets of paper, pens.
  • Participants: This exercise has been used for both analysis and training.
    • Mixed groups of men and women in different ethnic/caste or socio-economic groupings.
    • Single-sex groups.
    • Staff or research teams to critically reflect on gender roles.
    • Boys and girls, divided into single-sex groups.


Following introductions and description of objectives, participants split into two groups – by gender. Separately, the men’s group and the women’s group list all the activities in their daily schedule, from waking to going to sleep.

For this tool, it is important to specify what type of day is at the focus of the exercise - perhaps the busiest time during the season, and also after harvest. The Exploring Dimensions of Masculinities exercise focused on a typical weekday and a typical weekend day for its workshop with urban adolescent boys.

Each activity is drawn on an idea card and laid out in order across the day.

The group then reviews the day, and the facilitator discusses:

  • Where does each activity take place? And with whom?
  • The facilitator then asks the group to identify which activity takes the most time. Next to that activity, the group places 10 stones. The group then identifies the 2nd-most time consuming activity, and decides how many stones to place there. This continues until each activity has stones next to it to show the amount of time required.
  • After this is completed, ask the participants to list the activities across the daily schedule of someone of the opposite gender.
  • Once completed the women’s group joins the men’s group and the men present their schedule. The participants – men and women – then go to the women’s exercise and the women present their schedule.
  • When both lists have been completed, the facilitator discusses:
    • What surprised you about this exercise?
    • Did the men accurately list women’s activities? Did the women accurately list men’s activities?
    • Is there a difference in the kind of activities that men and women do? What is the difference?
      • Probe → What is the reason for the difference? Does society expect very different things from men and women? Why does society expect men and women to spend time in different ways?
      • Probe → Do you think this difference is justified? Why or why not?
    • Which kind of work is a person paid for? Which kind of work is a person not paid for? Why?
    • Which group has more leisure time to spend as they like? Which group has a larger workload?
      • Probe → Is this justified? Why or why not?
    • Was sex listed on the daily schedule? Why or why not? If it were added, would it be listed the same way in all the groups’ daily activity schedules? Do men and women have the same expectations for sex? Why or why not?
    • How much variation from this general daily activity schedule happens in your community? Do you see some particular men or women acting differently? Why is that?
    • How does their reputation in the community change if they are not conforming to the norm?
    • Are there certain ways that you would like to change community expectations of men’s and women’s daily activity schedules and workloads? What are they? Describe them. What can you do to make these changes happen? What can others do? How can this project contribute to those changes?
In addition, the facilitator may ask groups to place values alongside each activity:
  • ‘H’ (or another symbol) for tasks that are highly valued,
  • ‘P’ (or another symbol) for tasks that are paid with money,
  • ‘R’ (or another symbol) for those paid with respect/prestige, and
  • ‘U’ (or another symbol) if it is unpaid

next to each activity. Once completed, groups then discussed their observations regarding the chart. The team then reflected on how the chart may change based on age or class.

Further, teams also discussed the roles of boys or girls in each of these tasks.



Variation: Making Activities with Tools

Rather than ask participants to draw, the facilitator can ask participants to gather the tools/utensils that they use associated with each time period and lay them across the day to illustrate activities.

This is done with men and women side-by-side.

The research team can then facilitate a discussion around the matrix and tools on the different daily activities done by men and women.

Variation: Activity Pie Chart (Power to Lead, CARE USA, 2009)

While the Daily Time Use exercise has been used with children, another variation asks boys and girls in separate groups to list the activities they undertake during the day. In the Power to Lead Alliance, this exercise was faciliated with girls 10-11 in one group, and 12-14 in another.

  1. This exercise begins with discussing the various activities or tasks that girls (or boys, in a separate discussion) do during the day. Make a list of key activities together.
  2. Invite one participant to draw a large circle on the ground or on a chalkboard. This circle represents one day, 24 hours.
  3. Explain that the group will now divid the circle into pieces, each representing one activity or task they have listed. The size of that piece should represent the amount of time spent on that task. One way to represent the chart is to show or discuss what an orange looks like when it is cut into parts, with the wedges visible.
  4. It may be helpful to start with the process of discussing how many hours of sleep girls get each night, and allocating that piece first.
  5. Let the participants discuss and mark sizes themselves, as early as possible. The facilitator should focus on posing questions of clarification or probing for further discussion (e.g. I see that this piece looks bigger than that one, so you spend more time fetching water than preparing dinner? Is this the same for everyone?)
  6. If the typical day is a school day, discuss how they spend their time in school (in lessons, chores, meals, recess, etc.)
  7. When the group finishes the chart, participants should review their list to be sure that each task has been included. They should note the amount of time allocated for each activity. Reviewing the list and adding the amount of time helps to confirm and clarify the drawing for analysis.

Following the activity, further discussion questions may include:

  1. If you were free to change your schedule, how would you you spend your time differently?
  2. How might you work with others to change how you spend your time?

If done with boys and girls separately, this activity can bring both groups together in a subsequent activity to discuss and compare the two time-use charts.