Mukamanzi Grace is a 33-year-old mother of two boys aged eight and three. Her eldest son attends pre-Primary school and her own highest level of education is Primary. She lives in Simbi sector, Huye District, Rwanda. In the past Grace experienced some problems with her husband: he did not provide for the family, instead spending money on drink, and he beat her nearly every day. She decided to leave the marital house to save her and her children’s lives. She is currently living in a small room with her two children.
Grace is employed on an ad hoc basis by the Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme (VUP), a poverty reduction programme initiated by the Government of Rwanda. The main activities in the VUP include the rehabilitation and construction of feeder roads and terraces. The VUP worksites are far from Grace’s home, and she walks approximately 30 minutes to reach them. She carries her youngest child while at work because there is nobody else at home to take care of him. Besides this, Grace works for others, especially when there is no VUP work. Working for others helps her to gain additional, instant income because she is paid immediately after the work, as opposed to the VUP which pays her on a monthly basis.
Grace is responsible for doing all of the care activities at home, with some help from her eldest son in fetching water and firewood. The care activities include fetching water and firewood, washing the dishes, cooking, and cleaning the house. She asserts that collecting firewood is time-consuming and tiresome because there are no forests nearby; as such, she walks long distances looking for wood. Fetching water is also cumbersome because the water source is located far from the house. Grace does not have sufficient water containers or reservoirs to keep water at home. Consequently, she makes several trips to the water source in a day.
Grace combines both paid and unpaid work; however, combining both is not easy. Normally the work at the VUP site begins at 7am and goes on until 3pm. This means she wakes up very early in the morning to reach the VUP site, taking her youngest son with her. She prepares food the night before so that her eldest son can serve himself during the day when she has gone to work. Her children understand the challenges that their mother is going through, but overall they are happy because she cares for them. Grace finds that the weather makes a significant difference in how able she is to support her family, noting that:
‘[In] this season of drought it’s hard to get work to do so I fail to get enough to feed my family.’
As Grace combines both paid and unpaid work, it appears that she does not get sufficient leisure time. She complains that she is tired most of the time but she cannot stop working. Her eldest son is largely affected because he does a lot of care activities to help his mother, which means that he does not go to school regularly. When food is short, a friend provides some food for Grace and her children.
Grace would like to see the VUP pay its workers at least on a daily or weekly basis instead of monthly as it is currently done. She would like to see NGOs or the government help her to learn technical skills such as weaving and other forms of handicrafts. Additionally, she would like the government to provide more for those who need it in the community:
The very important thing that the government can do is to construct house to the homeless people in our community and if possible provide domestic animals to the poor people like me in our village.