Sangeetha Sohan Damra
Sangeetha is a 35-year-old tribal woman who lives in a rural area of Dungarpur District, Rajasthan with her husband (aged 40) and four children: a daughter (aged 15) and three sons (aged 20, 16 and 4). Her husband, as with other men in the area, migrates to Ahmedabad for six months of the year, although the income he generates from his work as a waiter at wedding parties and as a construction worker is meagre. Sangeetha’s eldest child, a son, whom she had when she was 15, accompanies his father on work to Ahmedabad. Her daughter and 16-year-old son go to school which is several kilometres away (they walk for an hour and a half to reach school). Her youngest child stays at home with her.
Sangeetha has not had any schooling. She and her family, like her neighbours in the area, work on the family farm producing grains and pulses for their own consumption. Sangeetha does most of the household work herself including collecting water and firewood, grazing the animals, cooking, cleaning the house and looking after her children. She spends five hours every day on unpaid work.
Sangeetha finds the collection of water incredibly labourious. She wakes up at four in the morning, walks a long distance uphill (‘we have to climb so much… it hurts!’), and in order to collect her daily requirement, she has to do about four rounds of water collection every day; each time she carries about 10–15 litres. The water is used for everything in the house, including cooking and washing. Her daughter and 16-year-old son help with the housework. Her son grazes the animals, and helps with the collection of water when he has holidays and he washes his own clothes. Her daughter also helps with the cooking as well as other household chores, including fetching water, but her mother does not want her to be tied up only in household work: ‘I don’t want her to only think about work’, she says, ‘that is why I don’t make her work, so that she studies more.’
Sangeetha also takes up Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) employment when it is available and she has completed over 60 days of MGNREGA work. She spends eight hours per day on MGNREGA work when it is available. When she does paid work, she gets up early and completes her chores before she goes out to work. Her work is usually a 15–30-minute walk away. The conditions at work are not conducive for her taking her small child along – there is no shaded area, childcare facility or even any facility for water – so she prefers not to take him along. When her older children are on vacation from school, she leaves him behind with them. At other times, this poses a problem, and she feels the stress of having to do combined paid work, unpaid productive work and unpaid care work responsibilities. She says that she gets tense:
The entire week I have to work, how do I explain my tension to you? Should I wake up at four o’clock or five o’ clock? Should I do this work or that? My brain just doesn’t function!
She also feels the physical effects of her overburden of work, she gets fatigued, experiences leg pain and falls ill, but she cannot give up either her paid work or her unpaid care work, ‘things won’t carry on if I don’t go for paid work and things won’t carry on if we don’t do the house work. That is why I have to do all the work’. Apart from her two school-going children, Sangeetha also draws on the support of her female kin members – especially when she is ill, her older and younger sisters-in-law help with her housework as she does for them when they are ill.