Emmanuela (aged 25) lives with her 30-year-old husband and her three-year-old son in Lushoto District, Tanzania. She is self-employed, selling products in a market in town, which is 30 to 60 minutes’ walk from home. Emmanuela never went to school. Her husband is a vegetable farmer and he also works as a carpenter.
Emmanuela has a small business selling food items and clothes. She is also a farmer at home. Financially, her small business generates some income that she uses to buy household necessities, such as food and clothes, and to look after her child (paying for childcare and medical treatment). She feels proud to financially contribute to the family. Her husband is equally happy for his wife to be doing paid work and earning some income. Emmanuela explains, ‘my husband feels good about my paid work because I am helping [him] increase income in the family and helping to provide care if they need anything.’
At home, Emmanuela spends a lot of her time doing unpaid care work. She mainly does cooking, cleaning the house, washing clothes, taking care of her child, fetching water, grazing livestock and working in the farm. Emmanuela’s husband provides support and he sometimes helps with cutting the fodder for the animals and cleaning the compound. However, Emmanuela feels he does not do much. She always takes time to look after her family knowing what they will eat, how they are doing, who is well, and taking care of whoever is not. She takes good care of her family, ‘… because I am the mother and a mother always has to know the wellbeing of her family. That is what I do.’
Emmanuela’s husband appreciates the work she does – both at home and at the market:
Yes, my wife contributes because when she gets money from selling her vegetables, she buys food and clothes for the child. Also she contributes a lot in the family care because she does all the work at home, looking after the child and me, cooking for us, making sure we are not sick and ensuring we have everything we need in the house. Without her around things are not OK.
In terms of balancing her paid work in the market with her unpaid care work at home, Emmanuela is mostly able to do her activities, but sometimes there is too much to do: ‘I am supposed to look after my family, clean the house, do some farming, raise my child and do my business. I have to just finish what I can and do the rest when I get the time.’ She is comfortable doing home-based work and paid work. She believes women can take up men’s responsibilities such as making bricks, constructing livestock shelters and building a kitchen, saying, ‘myself I can do all those, even [though] they are considered as work for men.’
When Emmanuela is away, her husband decides on arrangements for the family. She stresses that if she is going away for a short time then her husband replaces her at home; but if she is to be away a long time, then she takes her son to his grandparents. Her husband says, ‘when she is not around I feel her absence – things are not done the same way and she [leaves] a big gap in doing so much for us.’
Emmanuela’s paid work helps her because she is able to buy home necessities, such as food, clothes and medical treatments. In addition, she can sometimes hire help: ‘sometimes it helps me save time in terms of paying someone to take care of some work at home, for example I can hire someone to fetch water from the stream.’
Emmanuela reveals that she decided on her own to take up paid work: ‘I am doing my businesses because I wanted to do something that will earn me some income.’ Her husband comments, ‘any [work that is] decent to me is acceptable, because life is about helping each other nowadays, not just a woman staying home and waiting for everything from the husband.’
The biggest challenge Emmanuela faces is the lack of a market for her vegetables, because everyone locally is a farmer, growing the same crops. She says, 'so you can’t expect to sell near [to home] – if you have an external market it is when you can make a good sale.'
Emmanuela sometimes travels to several markets in order to sell her produce, and on these days it is hard to do all the household work: ‘you have to wake up early to get to the market in time, by the time you come back home you are exhausted and all the housework is waiting for you.’ Emmanuela’s son is affected because during these periods she does not have much time for him, and leaves him with his grandparents. During the seed planting season, Emmanuela mostly spends time on the farm, and the household work is nearly fully abandoned – this is because she decides to concentrate on the farm, which she views as more important.
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.
As a solution to the challenges she faces, Emmanuela thinks the best care arrangement would be to share the care work, so that no one is burdened alone with household activities. But this is difficult as her child is still very young. The community can’t do anything to help, because everyone is taking care of themselves. Emmanuela would like to be helped to find a market for her vegetables. She thinks the NGO should also organise groups and provide loans to women, so that they can help themselves by starting up small businesses to make money. She thinks the government should develop community projects to improve people’s economic status, especially for women, and also provide water, hospitals and schools.