Agnes Kirabo is a 29-year-old single mother who lives in Simbi sector, Huye District, Rwanda with her two daughters (eight and one years old) and son (ten years old). Her son and eldest daughter attend school. Agnes herself has completed Primary school education. She participates in the Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme (VUP) for paid work, where she mainly works on the construction of feeder roads and terraces. The VUP worksites change according to the project underhand, and therefore the distance that Agnes has to travel varies. Currently, it takes her 30–45 minutes to walk to the chosen worksite. She explains that the income earned from her VUP work is not sufficient to cover all of the family’s needs, and as such she works for her neighbours to earn extra income.
Agnes does not live with her husband which means she is responsible for all of the care activities in the house, such as fetching water, collecting firewood, cleaning the house, cooking, and taking care of her children. There is public provision of water in the village, which helps with her care responsibilities. Her children are still young but the eldest two can help her with some care tasks: ‘My children are fine with sharing the care work because they see that I do a lot of work. Whenever I assign them some care work, they feel okay with it.’ Her son also agrees that Agnes does a lot of care work, and he says,
My mother does a lot at home including cooking, fetches water, collects wood, washes clothes and cleaning. She does not get time to rest she is overloaded. In fact, after cultivating, she does care work and does not have any time to rest.
Combining care and paid work is difficult because Agnes is the only one who can earn income for the household and meanwhile she needs to prepare food for her children at the same time; she complains,
Unpaid work affects me since it takes me a lot of time. This is because my children are still young. I am alone to work for them and feed them and yet I need to go and do paid work to be able to pay my rent and even provide some for my family.
Her difficulties are exacerbated by there being no childcare facilities in the village. Care work also affects her children: ‘When my children come back from school and they do not find me home, they start doing the care work without even resting. They rest after the work.’
Agnes would like to participate in paid work and also satisfy her family/children at the same time, but this is not easy. In fact, because she is the only one who works in the family, she sometimes leaves home without providing food for her children. She says,
‘In most case it’s because working for the home and children when you are alone without a husband to help you it is really challenging.’
Agnes would like the VUP to pay its workers within the shortest timeframe possible, for instance after one or two days. She also feels the government should build houses for poor people and buy them health insurance. In addition, she says that non-governmental organisations should help build their capacities through hands-on skills and microcredit.