Lushoto 4, Tanga

Case study

Mama Sharlene

Sharlene contributes to her family and to her community
My paid work helps in paying health services, buying food for the family, and all other basic needs

Sharlene is 54 years old and lives with her husband (aged 55), her daughter (aged five), and her sister (aged 45) in Lushoto District, Tanzania. Sharlene owns a small grocery shop nearby (less than 15 minutes’ walk from her home), works part-time in a restaurant and also farms for a living. She works 12 hours per day. Sharlene had a primary education. Her husband owns a salon and is also a part-time farmer.

Sharlene spends much of her time at her grocery shop, selling mostly fruit and vegetables. She uses the profits she generates from her business to buy food for the home. She chose her occupation out of convenience: ‘it is the easiest for me because I still have young children and I cannot leave them alone to go and work in some other place.’ In addition to looking after her own daughter, she also looks after other children in the community. Sharlene also works in a restaurant to earn some additional income. It is the hard conditions at home that made her choose to work at a restaurant since her husband could not fulfil all her financial needs. Her other options of paid work are running a salon, selling bricks, goats or second-hand clothes in village markets. Sharlene is also involved in farming. Her husband helps her a lot with the work at the grocery shop as well as on the farm. She says, 'my paid work helps in paying health services, buying food for the family, and all other basic needs –  but it is not enough to [fulfil] all the needs.'

At home, Sharlene’s unpaid care tasks include cooking, farming for the home, washing her husband’s clothes, preparing breakfast and taking care of her family. Sharlene’s husband does not support her in care work. Sharlene’s sister helps with washing dishes and clothes when she is absent, as well as in the farm and the shop. Sharlene cleans to prevent disease so that the children grow well:

Say we have taken supper and left the utensils unclean, there are some small flies that can be on them and this can cause harm to our children.

Sharlene’s sister sometimes faces challenges with the household tasks, saying:

It is not easy at all, [the] reason being when you are [living] alone you make sure that your activities are done in time, but when you are staying with someone you cannot do things the way they are supposed to be done.

Sharlene’s husband is appreciative of the work she does at home and says that he feels bad that his wife does not earn from household care activities because this is also work and it would be nice if she was earning from it.

Sharlene and her sister usually alternate between household chores and working at the grocery shop/farm. Sharlene explains, ‘we help each other out. When [I] am digging or at the salon/restaurant she can be here doing home activities like cooking, taking care of the children, washing utensils.’ The proximity of the grocery shop to Sharlene’s home makes it easier to manage both the paid and unpaid work, as she doesn’t have to travel over long distances. Balancing both types of work is made more difficult by the fact that Sharlene has a small child. She says,

I have a young child who disturbs me a lot and when I have started to concentrate here they call me at the stall, so I cannot [do all I’m supposed to in the time available].

Working at her home, the shop and the restaurant is challenging, and Sharlene gets tired. Her husband is supportive: ‘the work she is doing gives her [a] hard time and by the time she comes back to prepare food for us it can be late, and not forgetting that she can be tired.’ Sharlene’s paid work affects her health as she gets chest aches from cooking so much. She says

[I] spend much of the time in the kitchen, so smoke is affecting my chest.’

She is positive about her numerous tasks, although she doesn’t get enough time to rest. Sharlene says she participates in community activities, ‘because I can benefit [from] anything and it helps to get new ideas from my fellow community members that will help me develop my business.’

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.   

Sharlene thinks that by diversifying her enterprises and increasing her sources of income, she would be able to hire someone to help out on her farm, which would ease her workload. She aspires to sell second hand clothes or rear chickens or goats, dependent on the availability of capital. She is hesitant that her community or the government can help her in any way to reduce her workload, but is open to suggestions, for example increasing basic government services such as health and education.


About Mama Sharlene

Household (Extended)
Male headed
1 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
Loading, please wait
Activities shown are a single day snapshot in the life of the woman.