Alexandria is 46 years old and lives in Lushoto District, Tanzania. She lives with her husband (53 years old, a government employee) and four daughters (aged 12, 9, 8 and 5). Alexandria is self-employed at home as a farmer, and works for six hours a day. She also has multiple paid work activities, including working in a food kiosk. Alexandria’s highest level of education is Primary, and her eldest three children go to school.
Alexandria and her husband earn a living by selling produce that they farm at home. Alexandria thinks there is no other work she can do to earn an income, saying, ‘it is the only job where I have experience, and it has contributed much to my family.’ She has not experienced any problems with paid work and she uses her earnings to purchase home necessities including soap, salt, food and clothes. Alexandria’s husband reflects on the valuable contribution she makes to the household: ‘she contributes a big amount to the family, because her business helps to buy building materials for the house we are building, and she buys clothes for the children. She contributes by giving the children proper care.’
Alexandria’s food kiosk employer also lends her money and sometimes gives her food for her family. She does not know what the community thinks about her paid work. Other options for income are working in a restaurant, or selling clothes and utensils in a shop.
At home, Alexandria’s unpaid care tasks include cooking, washing clothes, mopping, fetching water, fetching firewood, washing dishes and preparing the children for school. Her husband helps with home-based activities and her children contribute to care activities when they are back from school. They fetch water for, and feed, the animals, and her eldest daughter helps in the food kiosk. Much of Alexandria’s time is consumed with cutting grass for animals and farming for the home. She sometimes does not have time to do her care activities and her children help with these tasks in her absence. She points out that casual work (such as labouring on other people’s land in return for wages or payment in kind) also takes much of her time.
Alexandria, along with her husband and family, feel positive about her paid work. Her paid work helps in care activities because she is able to solve different problems, such as hiring someone to fetch water or firewood and also buying the family’s basic needs. Alexandria’s husband says:
I feel good about my wife’s paid work because her business helps much in contributing in taking care of the family expenses. I am planning to improve her business so that it can bring her more income because I can see the benefits of the work, and for me to make her get used to depend[ing] on herself.
However, at times it is difficult to combine care tasks with paid work. Alexandria says,
I leave washing the clothes so that I can go for my paid work.
She finds no time to rest because she works from morning to evening and at times gets too tired. She says, ‘I work overtime… I work in someone’s garden in the morning and go to my garden in the evening or do other household work.’ Alexandria is overworked and sometimes gets stressed or falls sick. Sometimes her eldest daughter helps her. Her paid work affects the children as they are the ones who work in her absence. The children get tired but this does not affect their health as they do easy activities.
Alexandria thinks a solution to their challenges would be for her to do all the activities, so that the children are not faced with them when they are back from school. She would also distribute activities to family members before she leaves home. Alexandria thinks the community (especially local leaders) should sensitise people to be involved in community groups (where 10–20 people join together for borrowing, saving, advice and networking).
Although government services are fairly standardised across Tanzania, access to key services such as water sources, health centres and transport is often limited or problematic. Services also vary depending on location, for example, electricity is accessible in urban areas but not in rural. Also significantly, there are currently no childcare services provided by the government or within workplaces by employers. Alexandria thinks that the NGO (Oxfam) should provide water tanks and the government should provide free education for the community.