Gita BK (26 years old) lives alone with her two daughters aged 11 and 8, and her four-year-old son. Her house is situated in a ward without a direct road link and most of the village only has trails rather than roads. The school is situated in the next ward and the children have to walk quite a dangerous route – crossing a long, narrow canal and over a small stream – in order to reach the school. Her husband is a migrant worker and works as a driver in India. Her eldest daughter suffers from a congenital heart ailment and is unable to attend school. Her parents-in-law live in the same ward and provide care work support.
Gita attended two Participatory Learning Centres under the Oxfam Enterprise Development Programme. She raises local chickens at home and earns some money for basic groceries for the family. Since she is unable to provide proper shelter for the chickens, she loses around half of her 40-50 chickens to rain and attacks by jackals. Until last year, she was also involved in share-cropping during monsoons. However, she has realised that it involves a lot of hard work with low returns, ‘although we worked hard all day, we ended up buying from the shops with the money we earned.’
Gita does all the work in the household. The eldest daughter helps her with taking care of her younger siblings and with household tasks such as cooking, cutting grass, and taking care of the animals. Her husband seldom helps if he is at home. The most time-consuming tasks for her are fetching firewood and cutting grass:
It takes a lot of time; our forest is quite far from here. It takes one to two hours to reach there, and it takes equally long time to return. Sometimes, if I leave after lunch in the morning I can only come back in the evening.
Most of the time, she goes to the nearby forest that belongs to another ward to steal firewood, which further adds to her woes:
When I go to [collect firewood] from the forest I have to hide and steal which takes equally long time… [the guards] have caught me, they seize my basket and I have to release it by bribing them. The guards inspect the whole village and blame us for cutting the grasses without any evidence only because our village is surrounded by the forest.
Gita also shares that her parents-in-law are very concerned about their eldest granddaughter’s health and take care of her most of the time. Her mother-in-law especially takes care of her when Gita is out for unpaid work or some other work. Since Gita is primarily responsible for all the care and unpaid work, it becomes difficult for her when her children fall ill:
When my children are ill or when I have to take my daughter to the hospital, I miss out on the work. I have plans for the day such as bringing food materials. I have set plans for the day but I get occupied wherever I go. I miss out on my work at least once a week.
Gita would like to raise broiler chickens but for that she would need some initial investment. She also feels that since she is alone, she would not have time to do other work if she takes up broiler chicken breeding as it is much more intensive:
We wouldn’t have time for other work as we have to put water, their food, look after them constantly, even at night, we have to check if they are alive. It’s difficult unlike the local ones. The mothers tend to die after delivering two to four chicks, so it needs immense care and time.
She also has a small vegetable garden around her home in which she grows maize, some vegetables and mustard, for example, which has been sufficient for her family’s own consumption for almost four to six months. However, due to insufficient irrigation, she’s unable to grow enough food for her family and has to buy the same items from the market. She feels with proper irrigation facilities, she could save more money with which she can expand her poultry business, make a proper shelter for the chickens and earn more money. She also feels that it would be good to have more employment opportunities for the women in her village: ‘they can be provided with training in animal husbandry such as pig farming, goat rearing, etc.’