Eliza Ingabire is a 28-year-old single mother. She lives in Muko sector, Musanze District, Rwanda with her three sons aged ten, six and two years old. She and her husband separated and no longer live together. Her eldest two sons go to a nearby Primary school, and she herself has completed Primary education. Eliza’s main occupation is farming: she grows maize, beans and vegetables in her small piece of land. She also sells vegetables in a village market to support her family. The amount that she earns is not sufficient to cover the day-to-day expenses for her family, and can only help her to buy food, clothes, and school materials for her children. To earn additional income she also works in other people’s fields.
Eliza is also responsible for doing the care work for the household, such as cleaning the compound, taking care of her children, washing clothes, cooking, fetching water (for which she has to walk far), and sometimes taking care of her parents who live near to her home. She mentions that lack of access to water and electricity are the major challenges to doing her care tasks since these services are not fully available in her village. When Eliza is not around, she is supported by her eldest son. He fetches water, collects firewood, cleans the compound and the house, takes care of his siblings, and occasionally prepares food. Eliza says,
‘My son always replaces me when I have gone to the market to sell some vegetables and when I have gone to work in others’ fields.’
Combining paid and care work has affected Eliza. While she should rest after work, she does not have enough time to do so; the time she should use to rest is spent doing care work: ‘I do not get enough time to rest because I engage in various activities at the same time.’ In addition, her children are also affected, ‘My sons get tired too since they combine school and care activities at home. It is so tiresome and they do not get enough time to play with their friends when they help me with the care activities.’
Eliza’s status as a single mother is challenging when it comes to performing care work and paid work, as she is the only person in the family that works: ‘I am divorced so I do paid work alone and my children are still young to involve in any paid work.’ Therefore, she has difficulty in balancing all of her duties. Because of this imbalance, she often complains of illnesses:
‘I suffer from constant sickness like headache, back pain, etc.’
It also affects her children’s education as she cannot free up time to help them.
To relieve her pain while doing care work and paid work, Eliza would like the community to take care of her children when she is not around. In addition, she states that clean water should be made available. Furthermore, she suggests the government should provide seeds and fertilizers to increase production. Finally, she says that constructing feeder roads in her village would make transportation of farming products to the market much easier and less costly.