My husband left me when I was two months pregnant with my first child. Afterwards I was confused – I just didn’t know what to do. In my community, the women do more work than the men – it’s just the way it is – but being a single mother is tough. All of a sudden, I was the sole breadwinner.
I work as a farmer growing maize, which usually yields around four bags a year. I keep two for food and sell two for 48,000 Tanzanian Shillings each (approximately £15). The work is hard and I constantly worry about whether I’ll make enough money to support my family – often I don’t get a good yield from my crops because I can’t afford to pay for labourers, so I also fetch water for 500 shillings a bucket (around 15p). Even with this extra work and living for free in a Masai hut, raising my four children alone is the greatest challenge I’ve ever faced – I earn £35 per year and have no support from the fathers of any of my children.
This year free secondary schooling was introduced to Tanzania, but it has always been a struggle to afford primary school fees for my children. My biggest fear is that they’ll be expelled because I can’t pay. As a farmer you never have a guaranteed income and, due to climate change, our income is becoming increasingly unpredictable.
I always knew that by 30 I’d have kids, but I also thought I’d be happily married, which hasn’t worked out. But I’m proud to own five acres of land, which isn’t common for women in my community. Earlier this year, a local charity funded by Oxfam, called PALISEP, gave cows to a few of the poorer women in the village so now I can sell milk and use the money to pay for my children’s schooling. In 10 years’ time, I hope to own more livestock and become a successful agro-pastoralist (growing crops and raising livestock) – something that I’ve wanted for a very long time. So what is happiness? For me it is receiving a cow.