African Encounters with Domesticity

By Karen Tranberg Hansen | Go to book overview

11 Creches, Titias, and Mothers: Working Women and Child Care in Mozambique

Kathleen Sheldon

Access to reliable child care for working families has been a basic women's demand in all regions of the world. Mozambique, though extremely poor, has been a leader in the expansion of government- supported child-care centers, called creches in Portuguese. While many capitalist countries are not willing to take on the costs of motherhood despite defining women primarily as mothers, the socialist government of Mozambique introduced a series of supports for working women, including child-care centers.

This chapter examines the options women had for child care while they performed agricultural labor or urban work under Portuguese colonialism, the introduction of child care during the armed struggle for liberation, the expansion of such programs following independence, the situation in the central port city of Beira in the 1980s, and current problems under chrome wartime conditions and new economic austerity measures.

One of the most important variables affecting women's ability to work for a wage is their access to child care, whether through relying on family members (especially other women) or through placing their children in a formal or informal day-care center. Brydon and Chant present evidence from a wide variety of industrial and nonindustrial societies indicating that women who have child care for their children are able to take advantage of work opportunities. The apparent increase in urban-based extended family formations in many areas of the world may be related to the increasing numbers of working women with small children. When there is no day-care offered, these women must live with other adults who can care for their children while they are at their jobs ( Brydon and Chant 1989, 151-158; also aft Joekes 1989).

Mozambique is an agricultural country; while there has been

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