Roberta (35 years old) lives in a nuclear family of eight people in Korogwe District, Tanzania with her husband Robert (40 years old), and their six daughters (aged 14, 12, 10, 7, 2, and the youngest being under one year old). They share a compound with her sister-in-law and brother-in-law. Roberta’s highest level of education is Primary. All her children above six years old attend school. She is self-employed at home, working three hours a day. Her husband works as a potter at different construction sites.
Roberta earns her income from selling farm agricultural produce such as vegetables; she also works as a labourer on other people’s gardens. The income helps meet her family’s needs; she states, ‘my small business is helping me because I am able to take good care of my children, they eat nice food, they go to school and they get treatment when they are sick.’ However, as she makes very little profit she can only buy basic things like food, medicine, and school materials. Robert advised her to do paid work. Local options for women’s paid work include farming, and running small businesses such as selling women’s clothes and chapatti in the market.
'The household activities are essential and important but she cannot manage to meet all the needs in the household if she is not doing any paid work. So I would not mind my wife doing paid work inside or outside the house… my wife gets really tired but she is strong, it is an African way of life for a woman to struggle, endure and be strong. Also she gets very little time to rest.' (Robert)
Yes women can take up men’s responsibilities for example being responsible for the family and taking care of the family because most men here do not do anything for the family. It is the women doing everything for the family. (Roberta)
Roberta does all the work in the household including fetching firewood and water, cooking, and washing clothes. The most time-consuming tasks are cooking and running her business. Her eldest daughter helps her with cooking, washing, and cleaning the house. She also takes charge of planning for care arrangements in her mother’s absence, but her participation in care work affects her education. Roberta states, ‘sometimes when I go to look for money she can’t go to school. She has to remain home’. Robert occasionally helps Roberta with domestic chores and farming when he is not at the construction site: ‘me as the father of the household I organise the care activities working system, for example I arrange the children and give each what they should do and some of the work I do it myself.
Roberta sometimes faces a challenge when the household activities are difficult, such as fetching water. The distance to where it is collected is far thus she spends much time doing it which affects her working hours in the small business: ‘I end up losing customers because I open up late.’ The farming period also affects her care tasks as she puts all her time and focus in the farm. Work at home is thus not taken care of and the business becomes affected too because she cannot go every day. In some instances, her children do not eat, their clothes aren’t washed, and the eldest daughter gets tired because she helps with work after school.
Issues raised at home are mostly related to work that is not done on time, or that is done in a different way than when Roberta is around. She sometimes fails to cook for the children and wash their clothes. Occasionally she does not raise the expected income, and since she is primarily responsible for all care work, she diverts to home activities:
Sometimes you cannot go to dig in people’s garden when yours is not attended to. In cases like that, it means you cannot get money because you are concentrating on yours. Also if you are sick, you can’t go to dig in people’s gardens.
In terms of solutions Roberta feels that Robert could help with some care activities like taking care of livestock so that she is not the only person burdened. She feels she needs more capital to improve her working environment because currently she operates from outside in the dust. She wants to do more work like washing, cooking the children’s porridge, and fetching water so that her eldest child would not carry the burden of care work alone. She feels that the community should help mobilise people to form groups which can support each other in work so that there is a balance in care and paid work. She also suggests that the government should also provide schools, hospitals, water, public transport and good roads.