Bridget is 42 years old and lives in Korogwe District, Tanzania with her 48-year-old husband and four children (daughters aged 24, 11 and 4 years old, and a son aged 2 years old). Bridget had a Primary education and is self-employed, farming on the family’s land away from the house and selling vegetables in a market place, up to one hour’s walk from home. Her husband also works as a farmer outside of the home.
Bridget hopes in the future to earn from other paid work, including farming on other people’s land, cooking chapati and selling women’s clothes in a shop. Through her negotiating skills, Bridget agreed with her husband to participate in the farming she is currently doing. However, there is limited demand for produce and sometimes no customers, so the earnings are little compared to the family’s demands. However, her family and community are positive about her paid work because she is able to provide food, clothes and medicine for sick family members.
At home, Bridget carries out unpaid care tasks including farming, cooking, cleaning, taking care of the children, and fetching water. Her eldest daughter contributes to care activities too. Most of Bridget’s time is taken up with farming. Her husband decides on arrangements for the family, especially when she is away (for work or other reasons) and Bridget’s daughter and husband cover the care tasks in her absence. Bridget’s daughter uses her free time to work in a small business selling chapati and clothes, but also collects firewood for the household and feeds livestock at home. Family members help each other in the care activities and support Bridget. ‘She gets very tired and does not get time to rest,’ notes her daughter, who also says there is a need to support each other, as one person cannot finish all the care activities at home.
Bridget is the household’s main carer. She explains, ‘I have not failed to do any care tasks because of farming, and I am able to sustain my family’s needs.’ She has been able to do her unpaid care work and complete all tasks on time, and it has not affected her farming because she always works to a plan – for example, she starts with home-based activities and does farming last. Bridget feels that the decision she jointly made with her husband to do farming was a good one. Her daughter supports her, saying Bridget can do paid work from anywhere as long as she is earning money to take care of the family.
Bridget sometimes gets tired, but is supported by her children and husband. For example, her daughter sweeps the compound, occasionally supports in cooking, farms in the garden, and also fetches water. Bridget notes that farming is not affected by her care tasks at home, because she has people to support her (although this raises the issue that household activities are not done on time or in the right way, when she is not around). Bridget says,
The family feels good because it is them I am taking care of. Also they feel sorry for me because they see how tired I can be.
Bridget participates in community activities, which do not affect her work. However, failure to participate in any community meeting means that an individual is segregated and marked to be charged an agreed fine. This is intended to stop women’s absence from such meetings, but it poses a challenge. Bridget thinks the community does not care about what she does. As a farmer with little earnings, she still helps and takes care of her family, waking up early to start work and using all the time available.
To improve her situation, Bridget feels that the family should help her by doing more care work so that she does not get tired. She suggests that if funds were available, the family should pay someone to help with the housework. She also needs working tools such as a tractor and watering system, so that she can improve her farming.
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.
Bridget thinks that the community/NGOs should help farmers to develop a bigger market for their produce so as to earn more money. The government should provide loans so that people can borrow funds to grow their businesses (such as buying more clothes to sell) and the government should also provide health facilities. In addition, Bridget suggests that the government should provide schools, and that children should be able to eat at school, to reduce her worry about what the children will eat after school or when she is not at home.