Josepha Mukamwezi is a 45-year-old single woman living in Musanze District, Rwanda. Her highest level of education is Primary. Josepha lives with her six children – three boys (aged 23, 7 and 3) and three girls (aged 18, 17 and 12). Only her 12-year-old daughter attends school. Josepha does not have her own house, and instead she rents one room in her village where she sleeps along with her six children. Getting money to pay this rent is difficult for her and she is the only person responsible for everything at home.
Josepha is responsible for all care and other activities at home. Her care and unpaid work includes farming in her small garden, washing clothes for her children, cooking and cleaning. She leaves home very early in the morning to work in the Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme (VUP), which is the Government of Rwanda’s flagship social protection programme. She typically works for eight hours a day. Josepha prepares food the night before so that her children can eat when they are back from school during the day. Her two older children provide support in some care activities, such as cleaning, fetching water and collecting firewood.
Combining both unpaid care work and paid work is difficult for Josepha. In fact, there is such a high volume of work in taking care of six children by herself, that Josepha often prioritises care responsibilities, instead of doing paid work which would provide money to buy food for her children and pay the rent. Although Josepha is a beneficiary of the VUP, she sometimes fails to attend the programme and instead looks for other jobs which can pay her immediately. She explains,
‘sometimes I do not go for VUP. Instead I find small job somewhere else in the village because I know that I will be paid immediately, whereas for VUP the payment is [made] after some weeks.’
Despite the fact that Josepha finds it difficult to combine paid and unpaid work, her children are happy with her when she gets a job. Her son says, ‘when my mum is working, I feel happy, because I know that she will bring money.’ Her workplace does not offer any childcare facilities or a crèche.
Josepha would like her children to study regularly. However, this becomes impossible since she is poor.
‘… [I] am struggling to get something to feed my children and sometimes they refuse to go to school if there is no food at home.’
She also struggles to earn enough money for her rent:
‘I rent one room for RWF 3,000 [and] we all sleep in the same room. Sometimes I fail to get money to pay [the] monthly rent and when this happens we are in trouble.’
To improve her situation, Josepha wants the government to build her a house which can accommodate her family, saying, ‘I would wish [the] government [would] provide accommodation to poor people like me.’ She also wants the VUP to pay a week or two after the work is completed, so that she can get money regularly to buy food and family necessities.