Lushoto 4, Tanga

Case study

Mama Michel

Michel’s earnings and community help ease the challenge of unpaid care tasks
My care burdens do not affect my paid work responsibilities because the activities are not many. I can manage them and they are daily activities – I can schedule my time.

33-year-old Michel lives with her husband (36 years old) and three children (sons aged 11 and 3, and a daughter aged 8) in Lushoto District, Tanzania. Both Michel and her husband work in a market which is between one and two hours’ walk from home. Michel works for 12 hours a day. She sews sweaters and her husband is a construction technician, and they both also farm as a secondary source of income. Michel herself had a primary education and her two older children attend school.

Michel is able to earn some income from weaving sweaters, explaining:

It helps me at home because I am able to look after my family and also get money to save in the saving group. I am also able to raise money for school fees, buy salt, clothes for the children [and] get something to feed the children.

In addition, Michel is engaged in farming to increase her income. Her other options for generating more income could be to sell vegetables and mandazi (fried bread) in markets.

Michel does some of the work in the household, such as farming in the garden, cleaning the house, washing dishes, sweeping, fetching water, cooking, and organising the house. Farming consumes most of her time: ‘I usually dig up to 11am or 12noon.’ She says, ‘my care burdens do not affect my paid work responsibilities because the activities are not many. I can manage them and they are daily activities – I can schedule my time.’

Michel’s husband and children support in fetching water and collecting firewood when they get home from school and during weekends. When Michel is not at home her husband takes on care arrangements. She explains, ‘he has to make sure he does the chores he can manage as a man and he looks after the children.’ Sometimes he fetches water and firewood, and also pays someone to fetch water so that he reduces the care workload.

The community also supports Michel:

The community helps in taking care of my family when I am out for my paid work, because I leave my children so the community is watching them, so that they do not quarrel at each other, and when they have a problem [the community members] help my children.

Michel started her business to ensure that her family survives. She faces some challenges in her work: ‘working and you are not paid. Sometimes you are delayed… work which becomes so heavy for you.’ Michel’s husband can support in care work, but he does not do tasks accurately. Community meetings take up Michel’s time and sometimes she asks not to attend so that she can do her paid work and join later. During the months of June and December, when there is high demand for sweaters, Michel goes to work early, leaving the house before doing any care activity, which waits until she comes back home. She says, ‘I get tired but I am already used [to it] because I do all the work voluntarily.’ She prepares food for the children before she leaves so that when they get home, they can just eat. She explains:

There is not much workload [for] those replacing me when [I] am away, because I try to do almost all the activities at night. The activity I leave to them to do is washing the dishes, even though when they do the activities they do not do them accurately.

Michel’s paid work helps her in her unpaid work, as it enables her to buy firewood or water which eases the care tasks at home. During the farming season, she pays someone to fetch firewood for her because it takes time and impacts on her health. She says, ‘I contribute in my family because I can buy the basic needs for the family. My presence in the family helps, as in the family a mother is very important.’

Care tasks sometimes take up the children’s time, though they are happy about her paid work. Michel says, ‘sometimes my child fails to go to school because he is busy with household chores, since [I] am away from home working.’ Michel’s husband’s attitude towards her paid work is that he thinks work should be located near to the home, to enable her to participate in care activities.

Although government services are fairly standardised across Tanzania, access to key services such as water sources, health centres and transport is often limited or problematic. Services also vary depending on location – for example, electricity is accessible in urban areas but not in rural. Also significantly, there are currently no childcare services provided by the government or within workplaces by employers.   

Potential solutions to Michel’s juggle of paid work and unpaid care work would be to have a maid to support her in care tasks. Michel also thinks the community and government should give them funds to support their needs, such as extending water sources closer to homes in order to reduce the distances children have to travel to fetch water. She thinks the government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) should offer small interest-free loans with favorable repayment schedules, particularly for women.

About Mama Michel

Household (Nuclear)
Male headed
3 children
Contains male(s)
No care responsibilties for disabled people
No migrant(s)
No care responsibilties for older people
Women Development Fund (WDF)
Family/community support
Public services
Towards a double boon
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Activities shown are a single day snapshot in the life of the woman.