Erica lives with her 30 year old husband and, although she is only 24 herself, her three children (two daughters aged 12 and 8, and a son aged five) in Lushoto District, Tanzania. Erica had a Primary education, and her daughters attend school. She is self-employed, working for six hours per day at a market place that is up to 15 minutes’ walk from home. Her husband is a farmer and keeps cows.
Erica raises income from selling farm produce and clothes in the market. Her contribution is appreciated by her husband and family because she is able to provide financial support: ‘I contribute in my family because when my children want clothes [I] am able to buy for them, and also I can buy other home basic needs like sugar.’ Erica notes that her husband’s income alone is not enough to provide for all the family’s needs, and so they decided together that she should engage in paid work. Much as her husband appreciates Erica’s financial support, he feels she could do more farming and keeping animals, because these activities, unlike some other alternative occupations, do not affect her mobility, property and respect. Besides her current income sources, Erica notes that she could get increased income from selling farm produce in the village markets (similar to flea markets).
At home, Erica cleans the house, fetches water, feeds animals, and washes utensils. The most time-intensive activities are to collect firewood, take care of the children and wash clothes. The older children support Erica in home chores, such as cleaning and sweeping the house, washing dishes and fetching water. Erica’s husband also supports her to clean the kraal (cattle enclosure), cut grass for animals and feed them, clean the house and sometimes prepare food for the children. He has also previously taken one of their children to hospital, and he helps tidy items into the house when it get dark. Erica explains that her husband appreciates her in her absence:
You see that he has appreciated [you] when he decides to help you with some of the chores, for example fetch water for you, or when you are going to cook and have no firewood, he offers to collect some for you. Even sometimes when you are going to dig, he offers to come help you with it.
Erica’s husband says, ‘I feel good about my wife’s unpaid care [work at] home, because she is taking good care of us and it’s her responsibilities, so she is doing it properly.’
Erica feels satisfied that her unpaid care work at home does not affect her paid work. Deeper discussions reveal, however, that she faces challenges in her involvement in paid work. When she leaves for her paid work, the care activities are left undone:
Due to my involvement in paid work I can’t do some of the care activities at home, like fetching water, and sometimes I can’t wash the clothes for my family.
Erica also says that the local community support the family when she is not around, as her neighbour cooks for the children. Her husband reveals that he would prefer Erica at home, though he supports the care work when she is not there. He also mentions that she gets too tired from her paid work, which affects her involvement in care activities: ‘she doesn’t get rest as she has to do care work at home after finishing her paid work, even if she is tired.’ Erica agrees:
I get tired – because you are [tired] from digging and you are still supposed to do the home chores, since the kids are not around to help with them. And I cannot leave home and let my husband cook for himself. So you get tired but still have to go look for money.
Erica is able to fulfill the family’s needs, such as buying food, paying for health services when children get sick, and buying clothes for the children and for herself. Her husband mentions some negative impacts of Erica’s paid work, such as that the children might fall sick due to doing too much care work, or refuse to go to school, or stay hungry when their mother is not at home. Erica says, ‘sometimes my husband finds [it] a challenge because you might leave home without cooking, which forces him to cook for the children… that’s not his job, but he is supposed to do it since the children cannot stay hungry.’
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.
Erica explains that she would like to increase her paid work so that she generates more income. This would enable her to employ someone to help with care activities, so that she does not burden others, especially her eldest daughter. Erica also thinks that the community should form groups that can help each other with care activities, such as day care centres to help mothers take care of their children. She also says that the government should improve schools for children so that they eat at school rather than waiting until they arrive back home – this would reduce hunger and help the children to concentrate on their studies.