Korogwe 1, Tanga

Case study

Mama Henrieta

Henrieta’s precarious balance of income, family and community
CS6 Tanzania
I attend meetings and community responsibilities but this leads to closing my shop. It makes me make losses because on those days I do not make any money.

Henrieta (aged 28) lives with her husband (aged 35), their three daughters (aged 11, 7 and 3) and her nieces (aged 19 and 17) in Korogwe District, Tanzania. Henrieta’s highest level of education is Pre-Primary. The children over the age of six attend school. Henrieta is self-employed in her shop, where she works 12 hours per day. Her husband is a businessman, running a shop and also working as a farmer.

Henrieta makes a great contribution to the household, buying food, salt, soap and Vaseline for the children, along with clothes and school materials. She takes good care of the family because she is always there for them, which they appreciate. Henrieta’s husband gives his opinion on her paid work: ‘I would prefer my wife [not to do] paid work outside the house far from home, because she is the one who takes care of the family and does all the activities at home.’ Henrieta’s husband decides on the family’s arrangements when she is away.

In the future, Henrieta could do farming, sell women’s clothes, weave baskets and mats, or rear animals to earn income. She has good bargaining power with her husband and receives good support from her family, including her husband, who replaces her in her unpaid care tasks at home in her absence.

At home, Henrieta’s care tasks include cooking, fetching water, sweeping and all other home chores, with the most intensive tasks being to fetch water and wash clothes. She does all household activities and also attends to her shop. Henrieta’s husband and her 11-year-old daughter help with care activities and she mentions that they do the few easy activities that are not tiring, such as fetching water, washing dishes, collecting firewood and looking after the younger children. When Henrieta is ill, relatives and neighbours take over the care responsibilities. Henrieta’s daughter says that if she was given more time with her mother then she would help her to fetch water, wash utensils and clean the house. If given more time with her father, she would like to have more conversations with him.

Henrieta’s husband says:

When my wife is sick, I have to step in to do more care work. I try, but saying that I can handle [the work] is not true because it is too much, and even the few [tasks] I manage to do are not as good as when my wife does them – there is a difference. The only constraint for me is time. I have to attend to my work so doing or helping with care activities becomes nearly impossible, but I try whenever I can.

Henrieta reports that she participates in community activities, such as Village Community Bank (VICOBA) meetings, where people (mainly women) borrow funds to use in their personal business/work and reimburse these after a specified period of time. She also joins in community ceremonies because she feels it is her responsibility to participate. However, this affects her time to open up the shop as she notes, ‘I attend meetings and community responsibilities but this leads to closing my shop. It makes me make losses because on those days I do not make any money.’

Henrieta explains that it is difficult to balance being at home and attending to all her activities when she has to be at the shop to earn income. She says, ‘I have to sacrifice home for the shop. Most of the time I spend in the shop, [rather] than at home.’ Henrieta has sometimes not been able to fetch water and wash clothes due to paid work. However, she has been able to pay for her daughter’s extra tuition fees, buy educational materials and clothes for the children, and medicine when anyone is sick.

In the same way as other women who do paid work, Henrieta is aware that her paid work has affected her, as she mentions that most home-based activities are not done to her satisfaction and this impacts on her feelings. She says, ‘sometimes [other family members] cannot clean the house well so you find it dirty. Also the youngest child is not taken good care of like I would when I am around. [For] example, they forget to bath the child.’ Sometimes food is also not cooked on time. On some days she is forced to stay home when she feels that she has abandoned her child – and due to unpaid care tasks, she sometimes fails to fulfill her paid work effectively. Sometimes Henrieta either delays to open the shop or does not open it at all, which affects her business:

Some days when [I] feel that I have abandoned my home a lot, I decide to take care of the household before I go to open the shop. So I do so much work and by the time I get in the shop I am very tired and I cannot even stay for so long, then I go back home to at least rest. So on these days, I make less or no money at all.

Henrieta’s husband discusses how he can reduce her work burden:

My wife gets tired because of too much work and she barely has time to rest. So it is really tiring for her and not good for her health. I can help find someone to help my wife with fetching water and collecting firewood, then pay that person. These two are the hardest tasks in the household. By doing [this] I will have reduced the burden of care work for her.

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.   

Henrieta thinks NGOs should invest time in educating women so that they can make extra money, and should also give them loans to expand their businesses. She suggests the government should reduce taxes for women who run shops in villages, as they have less time to trade than women in urban areas (who open shops from early in the morning until late at night) and yet must pay the same taxes. She also thinks the government should provide water near their homes, and hospitals in the community, and construct affordable and easily accessible health centres nearby.

About Mama Henrieta

25-29
Self-employed
Issues: 
Children caring
Family/community support
Poverty
Public services
Outcome: 
Depleted