Lushoto 4, Tanga

Case study

Mama Marvin

Marvin’s multiple roles and responsibilities
CS28 Tanzania
I was forced to look for [employment] so that I make a living and look presentable amongst other people

Marvin is 35 years old and lives with her husband (37 years old) and four daughters (14, 13, 7 and 2 years old) in Lushoto District, Tanzania. The family do farming. Her three eldest children are enrolled in school, and Marvin herself had a Junior (Lower Secondary) education. Marvin is self-employed in a shop that is up to 15 minutes’ walk from her house, and she also farms on other people’s land. She is also part of two different savings’ groups which enable her to access small loans. ‘I am in VICOBA and [in] another one for helping ourselves’, she said. She works for seven hours a day. Her husband is a driver, working nearby in town. 

Marvin gets some income from farming for other people. She started doing this job because she needed money for survival and to provide for her personal needs. She says,

I was forced to look for [employment] so that I make a living and look presentable amongst other people.

Marvin takes up opportunities as they arise – such casual jobs are the only roles available and she often works for several different people. Even though she makes money from farming, she concedes that it is very tiring, and she is faced with the challenge of employers delaying payments, or sometimes not even paying at all.

Marvin performs the majority of the household’s unpaid care work, such as cleaning the compound and house, washing clothes and dishes, and cooking. Fetching firewood consumes most of her time: ‘fetching firewood takes time because there is a lot of activities to be done like cutting the tree, then cutting [it] into small pieces and then carrying them home.’ Her elder children also help when they are not in school. Her children appreciate her efforts, and she assumes her husband does too, as when he arrives home from work he finds food ready. Marvin’s husband also comments on perceptions of the support that he provides in unpaid care work:

I don’t face any constraints, as when I help my wife with care activities I don’t care what people say because [I] am doing it for my family.

Whenever Marvin is leaving the house for extended periods, her grandmother helps her to take care of the children. She also gets some respite from her community in extraordinary situations – for example, when she is absent, the neighbours will sometimes provide the children with lunch, before they return to school. Marvin’s husband explains the impact of her absence from the family: ‘activities are not done perfectly. For example when my wife cooks the food is good, and when the children cook the food is just normal because they are not skilled.’

Marvin copes with her demanding schedule by preparing food in advance, and leaving it for her family to find when they get back home. Asked who plans for the family in her absence, she responds, ‘I always plan before I leave.’ With her income Marvin buys necessities in bulk, which helps her to free up time to do personal things including to work on her own home. She admits that occasionally she fails to balance her paid and unpaid work, and thinks that if she had a personal business, she would not need to go elsewhere to seek employment. Her children also do not get enough time to read due to undertaking care activities.

Marvin feels that she is usually unable to do all her paid and unpaid care work in time and her solution is to do the work in sections. She says that the work affects her negatively and she feels that the pressure of having a paid job has implications on unpaid work:

When you go to do the paying job, you are unable to do the household chores. For example you can come back home after work, as you are making lunch for the children, another job opportunity comes up for the afternoon session. So you are not able to even clean your house – though it is not every day that we work both in the morning and evening.

Marvin contributes to the family by buying basic necessities, such as food. Marvin’s daughter comments on her mother’s working arrangements saying, ‘I feel good about my mother working because she helps me. When she is doing paid work I feel good because when I need something she gives [it to] me.’ Marvin’s husband does not think her paid work affects her domestic duties, but is very blunt about his opinion on her role at home: ‘of what use will she be being my wife if she can’t do the home chores?’ he asks. He continues, ‘I would like my wife to work near home so that she will be close to the family and give our children proper care.’

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.   

To improve her situation, Marvin thinks that there should be better access to land and that the government should provide people with seeds. She says that sometimes as a result of an urgent need for money, they are forced to sell produce too early and cannot take advantage of potential higher prices during times of shortage. She also thinks that an improvement in her wages would help to make her situation better. 

About Mama Marvin

30-39
Household (Nuclear)
Male headed
4 children
Contains male(s)
No care responsibilties for disabled people
No migrant(s)
No care responsibilties for older people
Self-employed
Programme: 
Women Development Fund (WDF)
Issues: 
Children caring
Family/community support
Public services
Outcome: 
Coping
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Activities shown are a single day snapshot in the life of the woman.