Pushpa Khatri, 22 years old, is from a village in Jumla District, Nepal. She lives in a joint family household which includes her father-in-law (47 years old), mother-in-law (45 years old), husband, Kapil (26 years old), a brother-in-law (19 years old), a sister-in-law (21 years old), and her five-year-old daughter. Her father-in-law works in a government office, whereas Kapil, her brother-in-law and sister-in-law are studying. Her daughter also attends a pre-school near the village. Her mother-in-law is involved in vegetable farming, to which Pushpa also contributes. Alongside this, Pushpa works in a local cooperative as a cooperative manager. She is also pursuing her high school education at the same time.
Pushpa has been working at the local multipurpose cooperative for the past five years. The cooperative is located within the village and it takes about 15 minutes to walk there from her home. Initially, she worked as a volunteer, but since she was the only educated member of the group the cooperative hired her as staff. However, she earns a minimum salary. Her responsibilities include organising meetings, collecting savings and managing the accounts of the members. She only has to go to the cooperative office during monthly meetings and works from home the rest of the time. She also helps her mother-in-law with vegetable farming. Despite her participation in vegetable production, the income is kept and controlled by her mother-in-law. Through her own income, Pushpa has been managing her daughter’s expenses as well as her own education. She does not have much say over the family income and the income earned by her mother-in-law. Since her husband does not earn and her own income is not enough, Pushpa’s natal family supports her with most of her daughter’s and her own expenses.
I don’t earn income from vegetable farming. I earn from my own work and take care of my daughter’s needs. My maternal home has been taking care of it [college expenses]. I ask from my maternal house for the daughter’s expense as well … I feel awkward to ask from them [in-laws]. They don’t offer it either.
The care tasks at home are mostly shared between Pushpa, her mother-in-law, Bhagirathi, and her sister-in-law. While Pushpa’s primary responsibilities are fetching water, firewood and fodder, her mother-in-law cooks, looks after the child and works on the farm. When Pushpa is away at work her sister-in-law takes over her responsibilities:
When I go for work my sister-in-law takes over. And, when my mother-in-law and I go for work, my sister-in-law does all the work. If everyone is at home and my sister-in-law has to study, the two of us do the work.
The men rarely help with the care tasks except for ploughing the fields, participating in care work only in the absence of women. Like other women in farming households, Pushpa’s workload increases during the farming season. Besides planting, digging and carrying manure, she also has to manually carry water from the river to the field for irrigation as there is no irrigation canal in the village:
The place where we go to sell the vegetables is very far. We don’t even have water, we have to carry and water the plants, it’s really difficult.
In addition, there are no childcare facilities in the village, which further increases Pushpa and her mother-in-law’s care burdens.
Pushpa finds it difficult to manage her studies, care tasks and paid work, especially during the farming season which often coincides with her exams. On one hand, it has affected her studies, and on the other, she either has to stretch time or postpone her household work to make time for studying during her exams.
When I have work during exams it gets difficult for me… I have to go for the test leaving my work behind … It has affected my studies. It has become obvious after marriage.
According to Pushpa, it sometimes leads to conflict in the household as her family feels that she is not contributing enough to the care tasks.
They say that I should do more work. I have been able to do it so far. It’s difficult to manage. I have to study as well.
Pushpa wishes the men could contribute to at least a few household activities, which would mean she would get more free time to focus on her paid work and studies. In addition, drinking water facilities in the household and irrigation facilities in the village could also help reduce the drudgery of her care work. Pushpa also sees the importance of skills training and better employment opportunities for educated women within the village, which would enable her to manage her expenses without depending on anyone.