Korogwe 1, Tanga

Case study

Mama Juliet

Juliet’s unrelenting efforts to earn while caring for five children
CS8 Tanzania
Other women think [I] am doing risky business when I go sell my things at the school.

Juliet is 38 years old and lives with her husband (aged 46) and their five children (four daughters aged 12, 10, 5 and 2, and one son aged 15) in Korogwe District, Tanzania. She is self-employed in a shop that is between one and two hours’ walking distance from her house, where she works four hours per day. She also sells food at a school. Juliet’s highest level of education is Primary, but none of her children attend school. Juliet’s husband is a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) cyclist and a farmer, cultivating maize, cassavas, Irish potatoes and beans.

As a farmer and a shopkeeper, Juliet sells part of her yield to earn money, which she uses to buy basic home necessities. Juliet has a desire to support her husband and the family. Juliet’s other options of income include selling household items in a shop. Her husband says of her work that, ‘… she does business that does not destroy her respect.’

Nonetheless, times are hard. The shop has recently declined due to inadequate capital, as some clients take items on credit and fail to pay, meaning she cannot restock the shop. Juliet explains, ‘this has affected us [particularly] when it is a holiday, and by the time these children go back to school, the shop can be empty.’ Juliet faces other challenges in her paid work, saying:

Other women think [I] am doing risky business when I go sell my things at the school. It is dangerous for me as I walk different places, I might get raped. Sometimes the teachers refuse [to let] us sell food at the school.

Juliet is responsible for all the domestic work in the household, including cleaning the house, cooking, sweeping, washing the children’s clothes, as well as irrigating vegetables on the farm. In fact, Juliet’s most time-consuming task is farming. Her eldest daughter helps with cooking, washing clothes and taking care of her siblings, while her son washes clothes and cleans the toilet. Juliet’s husband helps her in home activities such as fetching water and washing clothes. Her relatives also occasionally come to help during specific times when she is weak, for example when she was pregnant. Juliet’s husband decides on care arrangements and the children do all tasks in her absence.

With five children, aged 2 to 15, paid work and unpaid care activities at home together consume most of Juliet’s time. Each task takes a great deal of time and labour:

Cooking and selling chapati takes much time as I wake up early morning to prepare the dough and cook, then go and sell them early morning. Fetching firewood takes much time because I go very far to fetch [it]. Washing takes time because the children’s clothes are dirty and I also have to fetch water first. Cutting grass for the cows takes time as it is hard to get grass near home, I have to go very far. Irrigating vegetables in the farm also takes time because sometimes there is no water so I have to fetch water [from] very far to irrigate the vegetables. Fetching water also takes time because I go [to] fetch water very far.

Income-earning occupies the most time, and affect her daily domestic responsibilities such as cooking for the family and taking care of the children. She says, ‘there are times when I stay longer in the plantations and that means [I] am going to prepare lunch late and washing my children’s uniforms will also be late.’ Juliet’s husband prefers his wife to work near home, because she would be able to do her care activities more easily and be close to the family, especially the children.

From doing both paid and unpaid activities, Juliet’s body is affected – she gets chest aches because of the smoke from cooking chapati for selling, and headaches from being too tired. She says, ‘everything becomes disorganized and I end up getting tired and exhausted, although I fail [to] finish all [my tasks].’ Juliet’s husband takes on her responsibilities when she is out at her paid work, and his health also gets affected, for example he gets chest aches. Juliet’s husband faces criticisms from many people who say his wife is ruling him in the house. He responds, ‘I don’t care as I am doing all these to help my wife and family in general.’

Juliet participates in community activities, saying: ‘I get positive effects when I participate in community activities as I get time to talk to my fellow community members and advise each other on different things.’ Juliet suggests that distributing the activities among her family members would help reduce her workload. She thinks that the community should form groups to help each other with care activities, and she would like to be given capital to improve her farming. She would also like to get someone (such as a maid) to help her with care activities, such as cutting grass and selling chapati.

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. Juliet thinks that the government should bring water to their community and also provide sponsorship for their children to study for free.

About Mama Juliet

30-39
Self-employed
Programme: 
Vegetable Value Chain project
Issues: 
Children caring
Family/community support
Poverty
Public services
Outcome: 
Depleted