30-year-old Josephine lives with her husband (aged 35) and three children (one daughter age five, and two sons aged six and less than one year old) in Korogwe District, Tanzania. She is self-employed, working for four hours each day on her own land, which is between 15 and 30 minutes’ walk from home. Her highest level of education is Pre-Primary and her six-year-old son attends school. Josephine’s husband has some small businesses and does farming at home. Josephine is not a member of any self-help group in the community. She does not perceive her farming as ‘paid’ or income-earning work, and, with three small children, is fully occupied with unpaid care tasks at home.
Like many women in Tanzania, Josephine takes care of the children at home and when they are sick, she takes them to hospital. She notes, ‘I manage to do all my care activities because I am always at home and all my attention is on the care activities in the home. I do not have paid work.’ She also prepares her son every morning for school. She has time for her children and family, and they are happy for her to be around because she takes good care of them.
Josephine’s unpaid care tasks include farming for the home, cooking, cleaning, bathing the children, fetching water, washing clothes and more. Josephine’s husband helps out in some home-based tasks in her absence and he also decides about the care arrangements for the family. Josephine acknowledges that her husband likes to provide support, but cannot manage certain tasks:
You know men. He cannot do the cooking or even collect firewood from the forest. But he sometimes helps in cleaning the compound, but not very much. It is not something he does all the time. But when the children are at school and I am not at home, he helps in the necessary home chores. But he cannot cook. If I get sick, he may look for some firewood, bring the food from the garden and wait for the children to come from school to come and prepare the food.
Josephine’s children also support the family’s care work. Josephine’s (five year old) daughter normally supports her mother in cooking and Josephine explains that the boys ‘graze the goats and do some other work.’ In the future, Josephine’s daughter hopes to have a small business, for example selling women’s clothes, making mandazi (bread) or selling produce in a small vegetable market.
The community is currently in weeding season, so Josephine spends most of her time weeding, but she also works at home cooking, fetching water and cleaning the house, with farming consuming most of her time. She says sometimes the work is too much for her and she feels too tired to complete all her planned work. For example, during weeding season she may only reach half of her planned target and then get tired – so she goes back home because she has to take care of the children and family.
Josephine sometimes benefits from the sale of farm products, which is useful for buying household necessities and also hiring someone to weed in the plantation. She agrees that although there may be challenges in balancing paid and unpaid care work, both are needed because income is very important in running a home:
How can paid work be a problem if you need them both? You have to balance the need for both the work that brings some money and unpaid care work because you have to eat and look after your family. I will give you an example, if I was a paid worker [doing] casual work, I would use the money to hire some manpower to work in my garden so that I can balance between my paid and unpaid work.
She manages all her care work activities but believes that there is a need for more support for women at home:
For us women, we would do better if we [could] get someone at home to prepare lunch, so that after digging we eat our lunch and rest a bit. This is better, otherwise from doing work, you come back home and start afresh to prepare the food, clean the compound, and wash clothes and others. By the end of the day, you are just tired.
Josephine also participates in community meetings, saying:
There are no effects from attending community meetings on my side, because I ensure that I have done all my care activities on time. And then I go and attend, then come back and do the rest that I should do.
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.
Josephine and other members of the family believe that there is a need for someone at home to prepare meals for the children and do other home-based chores, so that women are able to do paid work elsewhere. Josephine suggests that the government should provide water services near the household, because currently she fetches water from very far away, affecting her health.