FELLY’S LIFE IN A NEW NORMAL (COVID 19)

Pikwo Felly, a 55 years old mother of eight children (M=04, F=04) like any other Alur woman wakes up at 6:30 am everyday to clean the compound, go to fetch water about 1.5 km from home and prepare meals for her elderly mother who stays with her before she can go to the garden where she spends about 5 hours farming. On return, she has to carry fire wood on her head, and sometimes the husbands hoe in addition to her own.

Although Felly appreciates the children for helping her with cooking while she goes to the garden during this lockdown, her workload has remained high since the demand for food and other household resources like firewood and water has become higher than before the Covid 19 since all the school going children have come back home due to the lockdown that the government imposed on the country.

Asked whether the husband helps her with some care work Felly replied “is there any Man in Alur land who can do care work? The only difference is that my husband allows the children including the boys to help me do care work such as cleaning compound and watching utensils”. In Felly’s family unpaid care work is for the wife and children, besides when the husband comes back home and finds food not ready, he asks ‘Why is food not ready yet you have been staying at home doing nothing?’

When she was asked whether she had some positive experience Felly said, the only positive thing she experiences is that after being trained by AFCE staff on sustainable back yard gardening, she imparted the knowledge on her children who is now helping in care work irrespective of their gender, they no longer buy vegetables because with the help of the children, they are able to engage in backyard gardening which has helped boost their nutrition and earn some little income from the proceeds of selling vegetables within the community and she believes that its her hope the children will make better parents. She spends most of her time talking to her children on the benefit of taking unpaid care work at home.

With the closure of schools due to the lockdown, Felly says there is increased number of household members which has increased the need for food, water, fuel. Even if the children help her with care work, they still need to be reminded and supervised if they should do good quality work something that does not come close to the mind of her husband even when he remains at home with the children. Many times, she gets the children have left the food on fire to burn as they get taken up by playing.

Felly grew up in a traditional family and lived to believe that care work is something meant for women and men have nothing to do with it, however due to the increasing workload on her as she ages it has become clear for her that care work should be done by everybody.  She recognizes that due to the high work load women get old and exhausted faster than their male counterparts who later start looking for younger women to marry and abandon their old wives. The lockdown has provided her ample time to live with her children and teach them the values of engaging in care work irrespective of the gender.

Asked what she would do with her time if she were not engaging in care work, Felly smiled and said ‘I would have enough time to engage in my farming and vegetable growing for increased income’ But because I have so much work on my back, I cant concentrate on the work which would give me more income. For now, I have to wait for money from my husband which sometimes does not come timely.

She concluded by saying if there was safe water near the homestead (She spends about 1 hour to get water), have efficient cook stoves and her husband could participate in some care work, she would have sometime to rest, and engage in other productive activities like farming and petty business.

Although there is so much workload on her, Felly still loves and cares for her husband and children. Her worries are more about the future of her children whose education has been interrupted by Covid 19 pandemic. She lives in dilemma and wonders whether her children will go back to school again.

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