Jennine Byukusenge is a 46-year-old widow who lives in Huye District, Rwanda with her five children – four sons (aged 25, 22, 16 and 11) and one daughter (aged five). Jennine’s highest level of education is Primary and her children over the age of six attend school. She is a beneficiary of the Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme (VUP), which is the Government of Rwanda’s flagship social protection programme. She also gets paid for farming for her neighbours, and she typically works for seven hours a day.
Since Jennine is a widow she is responsible for all care activities at home. This unpaid care work includes fetching water, collecting firewood, caring for livestock, cleaning the house and washing the dishes. She also gets support from her children, who help her to do care work when they are home from school. They take care of livestock, fetch water and collect firewood. Jennine is happy with the way care activities are organised in her house, explaining:
My household is ok with sharing the unpaid work. My children see that I work very hard and they help me without any pressure from me… most of the time I do not have to remind them what to do, they do it by themselves, and when [I] am around we work together and I like it.
Jennine complains that she does not have enough time to rest due to her unpaid care work. She says, ‘care affects me since it’s the work that takes me a lot of time and I even fail to get time to rest. I get [rest] time when my children are around.’ Care work is also tiring for her children. Jennine explains,
‘when [my] children come [back] from school and find I am not home yet, they start cooking on their own and doing other care work without resting.’
The money Jennine earns from working at the VUP and farming for other people helps her to afford basic necessities such as soap, salt, Vaseline and cooking oil, and also to attend to the needs of her children. She is able to bargain for her wages in her farming jobs, but the amount from the VUP is fixed. Jennine mentions that in the future she would like her employer to guarantee to pay her on time.
Jennine finds it challenging to combine unpaid care work and paid work:
It is really challenging and tiresome in combining both, since I have to do care work and paid work. For example, [it can be difficult] when I have gone for paid work and then [my] children come back from school and find that I have not prepared any food. In such a case, I [arrive] home tired and then I have to do work again.
Jennine explains that sometimes the volume of work is too much: ‘in VUP I have to report at work very early in the morning and sometimes even the distance to the working place is long. So, in that circumstance I am obliged to leave without doing any care work.’
Jennine would like the VUP to increase the flexibility with which it manages people. She says,
‘payments should be [made] on time and some flexibility in starting time is necessary, since most of us come from far, as others have babies to take care of first.’
She also thinks her situation would be improved if the government were to provide support, such as health insurance and training.