Jayanti is 39 years old, and lives in a village in Surkhet District, Nepal. She is part of a nuclear family that includes her husband Kamal (42 years old), her daughter (20 years old) and three sons (17, 13 and 4 years old). Kamal is a seasonal migrant worker and moves between India and Surkhet. The two older sons attend school whereas the youngest son has not started yet. Her daughter failed her tenth grade exams and dropped out. Jayanti herself has never been to school but she has attended adult literacy classes.
Jayanti is a member of the Pavitra Seed Cooperative and produces vegetable seeds on a small scale on her own land which is located near her house. She also earns income by selling goats. As her income only supports the everyday expenses of the household, the family depends on her husband’s income for major expenses.
The care tasks at home are shared primarily between Jayanti and her daughter. They get no support with domestic or care work from extended family members or the wider community. Jayanti mainly does the activities outside of home, and her daughter looks after the care activities inside, such as cooking, cleaning, washing dishes, and taking care of her siblings. The older sons occasionally fetch water from the community tap. Kamal is mostly away for work but he does help with care activities when he is home. Kamal says:
When I am at home I cut the grasses, feed and graze the goat… Sometimes when the mother and daughter go to the forest or somewhere far, and the children are in school, I have to look after the youngest child and cook as well.
As her husband spends most of his time in India, Jayanti has to single-handedly manage the farm work. She takes help from villagers for ploughing but has to do all the physically challenging work such as digging and harvesting on her own. Lack of irrigation provisions make the farm work more difficult. The intensive work in the farm has severely impacted on Jayanti’s health and she is unable to work as effectively as before.
At times of digging, my head and leg hurts, that made it difficult for me, I can’t work in the sun, I get ill. Earlier I used to be healthy, hence, I could do any work. Now I am ill and I can’t work much.
Kamal is also aware of the impacts of the drudgery of work on his wife’s health, but thinks he cannot do much to help because of his migration: ‘She doesn’t get to rest, I don’t get time to help out.’
Moreover, Jayanti is not able to contribute much to care activities during the farming season and has to depend mostly on the support of her daughter who gets equally overburdened and has been missing out on her studies. The absence of state provisions such as drinking water and childcare further increases the drudgery of unpaid work for both Jayanti and her daughter.
Both Jayanti and Kamal agree that there should be more redistribution of work at home especially among their sons so that the entire care work burden does not fall on their daughter’s shoulders. They also think that provision of services such as drinking water and irrigation would reduce the drudgery as well as help in upscaling vegetable farming. In addition, Kamal recommends that having employment opportunities near home would enable him to contribute more to care activities: