Carol is 29 years old and a single parent, living with her three daughters (aged eight, four and less than one) in Korogwe District, Tanzania. The eldest two children go to school. Carol had a Primary education and is self-employed outside the house, selling goods such as charcoal, clothes, and tomatoes. Her work is one to two hours away by car, and she works for 12 hours a day. She is the family’s only breadwinner.
It is Carol’s obligation to care for her children. She contributes through being in the self-help group Village Community Banks (VICOBA) where women borrow funds to use in their personal business/work, which they reimburse after a specified period of time. Carol gets her income from VICOBA and is able to buy her family’s essentials, such as food, clothes, medication, and school materials. She divides her time well between her income-generating activity and home life, and is able to be there for her children, ensuring they get the basic care they need due to their young age. Carol’s children are happy because their needs are met.
Carol is there for her children. She cooks, washes for them, washes utensils, cleans the house, and takes care of them when they are sick. She listens to their needs, saying, ‘I cannot afford everything but I try for them not to lack the basics like food, scholastic materials – for the eight year old – and clothing.’
Carol’s mother helps with the family’s care activities. She is a farmer and also helps with taking care of her grandchildren. Farming consumes much of her time and also looking for products for her business. When Carol is away for work or for other reasons, Carol’s mother helps out. Carol explains:
What I do is call on their grandmother who lives nearby, and she comes home for a day or two if I have to travel, and she takes care of them when [I] am away, just checking on them. The eight year old takes care of [the] four year-[old], so I arrange everything before I leave.
Carol explains the effect of leaving her children with their grandmother: ‘she cannot handle taking care of them so well because she is also old and so she cannot do as good as I could do.’ She reveals that it is sometimes not easy because young children need to be told what to do, and when: ‘but when someone replaces you they do not do that, so you find a child staying hungry for [the] longest hours and not eating on time.’
The income from paid work helps Carol satisfy her family’s needs. Sometimes it helps her when she has so much work to do but has limited time. For example she explains, ‘I pay someone [a] little money from my business to help with collecting water, or I can buy firewood instead of going by myself and spend[ing] a lot of time there.’ Carol says when she does so much work at home before attending to her business, she gets tired, and by the time she starts doing her paid work, she loses products to other people, which creates stress.
Carol explains the impact of community activities, which she is obliged to attend in addition to her home care work and paid work:
Sometimes I do not get time to rest, because when I participate in community activities, I don’t just sit, I work with others, helping to cook, fetch water, etc. So by the time I [get] home I have to take care of my children as well. By the time I go to bed [I] am very tired and it’s late.
To reduce the burden on her family, Carol would like to ensure food is prepared for the children before going to do paid work. She would like to do other work to reduce the unpaid care activities so that: ‘the only thing my eight-year-old daughter has to do is wash utensils and get her time to read or play.’ Carol also thinks that the community should continue helping in taking care of children. She would like to be given a loan that will help her expand her business saying, ‘that way I can generate more income and meet my family’s care requirements.’
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.