Miriam is a 35 year old mother of a one year old daughter, living with her 36 year old husband husband (36 years old) and daughter in Lushoto District, Tanzania. Miriam had a Primary education and she is now self-employed at a factory that is up to 15 minutes’ walk from home, working for eight hours a day. Her husband is a farmer.
Miriam’s husband is happy for her to work at the factory because she contributes to the family. Her income makes it possible to pay for household necessities such as soap, salt and clothes for their daughter. If she needs funds, Miriam can get money in advance from her workplace, which she pays back later. Miriam explains that her father encouraged her to work: ‘my father advised me to do this paid work because he never wanted me to depend only on my husband’s income to solve every need of ours.’ Selling clothes or farm produce are her other optional sources of income.
Miriam’s unpaid care tasks at home include fetching water, sweeping, cooking for the family, and washing clothes and dishes. Her husband supports in care tasks such as cleaning the house, fetching water and firewood. Miriam is able to do her household work in the time available to her, although farming for the home consumes much of the rest of her hours. She explains, ‘I am supposed to wash the dishes, cook, clean the house, fetch water and wash the clothes, and do my paid work. Yes, I have time to do all these activities.’ Miriam’s husband decides on care arrangements for the family during her absence and takes responsibility for all care tasks in the home.
Miriam is happy with her paid work:
I contribute to the family because sometimes I buy food and clothes and pay for health services, and I feel good because [I] am doing this for my family.
Her husband equally appreciates her because she takes good care of him. Miriam’s only challenge is when her sewing machine gets broken, and she has to get spare parts from very far away, which takes time. She also sometimes fails to farm in her garden, due to spending so much time doing paid work. Miriam mentions that she does, however, not get enough time to rest because she is balancing paid work alongside all the care activities at home. She explains, ‘I get too tired from care activities. Sometimes I can go to my paid work, and even if I go my ability to work won’t be good because [I am] too tired.’
Miriam explains the benefits of her paid work in easing her care responsibilities:
My paid work helps me in my unpaid work as when I have money I can pay someone to help me fetch water. I can buy food for my family. I can buy firewood and not go to collect it myself. I can also buy clothes and pay for health services.
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.
As a potential solution to improve her situation, Miriam feels she would put more effort into paid work, in order to generate more income and employ someone to help her with the care activities, and so reduce her workload. She also suggests that the community should form groups to help each other, such as daycare centres. She requires a new sewing machine to help her increase her income, and she thinks the government should improve water supply systems and health-care services.