Noerina (28 years old) lives with her husband (30 years old), their two children (a four-year-old daughter and two-year-old son) and her sister-in-law in Lushoto District, Tanzania. Noerina is self-employed, working in a market that is between one and two hours’ walking distance from her home. Her children have not yet started school, but her sister-in-law attends school. Noerina herself went to Junior (Lower Secondary) school. Her husband is a farmer and he also does daily labour jobs.
Noerina explains that it was the hard situation of life, and the big responsibility of looking after the children, that made her take up paid work. She contributes to her family because she can buy food and fulfil other household needs, such as paying for medical bills and school fees. Her family and community have a good perception of her paid work, because she can buy basic necessities and take good care of her family. Other options of paid work available to Noerina include doing house helper jobs, labouring in the vegetable gardens or cooking in hotels. She does face challenges in her business because she sometimes makes losses due to a lack of customers, depending on the day’s market situation: ‘for example, [if] I buy 50kg of cucumbers and sell only 10kg per day, there is no profit – there is total loss.’
At home, Noerina does unpaid care tasks for the family, including sweeping, washing dishes, washing clothes, fetching firewood and cooking. Her sister-in-law contributes to care activities when she is home, such as helping to fetch water, cook, and bathe and feed the children. Her sister-in-law also replaces Noerina in care tasks after school, so that Noerina can go to her business. If neither Noerina nor her sister-in-law is home, then her mother-in-law helps out with care activities. Noerina’s husband decides on the family’s care arrangements in her absence. Noerina notes that women can take on men’s responsibilities – for example if a woman has been widowed, then she has no choice but to do all the home activities.
Noerina manages to balance her paid and unpaid work. She is expected to sweep her house and cook tea for the children, and then go to her paid work. Noerina says she has time to do all her activities, including caring for the home and running her business. Her family members feel good about her work, and so everybody contributes to the care activities, ensuring Noerina’s paid work is not affected. She however notes that she makes a big contribution to the household, because she does all the activities at home before she goes to her business.
Going to find the goods to sell in the market takes much of Noerina’s time: ‘it might take the whole day.’ But she doesn’t find this a big challenge as she has the full support of her family at home. She says,
My paid work has benefited me much as I can sit with my husband and plan what to do with the income I [have] got. We have bought already wearing and trees because we want to build our house.
Noerina explains how care work can impact on her paid work:
The burden of care work affects my paid work, because I go to buy things to sell at the market. Because [of my care work] I am late to go and buy [at] the farm, so buying in the market brings a loss. For example, when I buy in the farm I sell five cucumbers for TZS 1,000 and when I buy from the market there are no extra cucumbers.
The community support Noerina in caring for her family. She gives an example of the community members warning her children not to play near the road. There was a time when Noerina’s daughter nearly got into an accident with a motorcycle as she was crossing the road, because the driver of the motorcycle was going very fast. Noerina also participates in community activities, for example:
I participate, such as in carrying stones to build canals or digging roads. I also participate in religious activities, for example cleaning the church, because with community activities if you don’t participate, then you have to pay. For instance, the day I want to baptise my children, the church might refuse if I don’t participate in these activities.
There are other benefits from Noerina’s participation in community activities. For example: ‘when we were carrying sand to build [a] water supply system, I learnt how I can get water easily and the water is clean.’ However, she is affected by spending too much time at community meetings. She explains, ‘when I am back I have to cook for children then I can’t go for my work.’ Sometimes Noerina’s children stay hungry if her sister-in-law is not at home and her mother-in-law has not cooked due to having too many activities.
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, Noerina suggests that the family should distribute care work to each other, such as fetching water. While one person is fetching water, Noerina can do the cooking. Noerina explains that the community has groups to help each other with activities in cases of illness or when someone has given birth. The community members come and help with care activities such as cooking, fetching water, fetching firewood and sweeping. She would prefer to be employed somewhere rather than running her own business and she suggests it would help if she could get a loan to add into her business capital. Noerina also thinks that the community should be provided with services such as water, because the water source is very far from her home.