Esperance Muhoza (aged 34) lives in Muko sector, Musanze District, Rwanda with her husband (44 years old), three sons aged 13, ten and eight, and a young daughter aged one. The boys attend a nearby Primary school. Esperance carries her young daughter wherever she goes because most of the time there is no one else to care for her. She only gets support occasionally during the day when her husband is home or when her elder children are back from school.
Esperance’s main occupation is agriculture: she grows vegetables, beans, and sometimes Irish potatoes. It takes 30 minutes for her to walk to her garden. As the income earned from agricultural activities is not sufficient to support her family she sometimes participates in paid work, when opportunities become available, such as road construction in various locations and repairing neighbours’ houses. She is also responsible for care work such as cleaning the compound, washing clothes, cooking, fetching water, and taking care of her children and occasionally the elders living in the village.
In the family they help each other for the common good. Esperance sometimes helps her husband to carry goods to the market. She says,
‘My husband does labouring work of pushing a wheelbarrow and is hired by traders to carry merchandise to the market. Sometimes I help him so that we can earn more for the family.’
Her eldest son helps her out with care work: he fetches water, collects firewood, cleans the compound and house, takes care of his siblings and sometimes prepares food. The family doesn’t get any support from extended family or community members.
The need to combine care and paid work affects everyone at home. Care work is a big burden for Esperance when no one else is at home: ‘I am always busy with lots of care work at my home. Especially when my children are at school then no one will be there to help me in one way or another.’ The children also get tired due to the care work they do after school which also limits their time to play; she says, ‘they don’t have enough time to play and visit their friends.’ Her husband is also frequently exhausted as a result of pushing the wheelbarrow all day. As her husband doesn’t earn enough money to support the family Esperance has to do paid work as well which can take up a lot of her time. She explains,
For instance I don’t get enough time be with my children especially when they return from school and in the evening. They do not get me when they are in need. The reason is that I am always busy with paid and unpaid work.
Esperance feels mutual support between family members is of paramount importance to balance paid and care work; she states: