Conceptualizing practices of care in women’s lives. A domestic work case study in Ethiopia and Tanzania

  • Silvia Cirillo Università di Urbino, Italy


Drawing from the lived experiences of female domestic workers in Ethiopia and Tanzania, this article illustrates different ways in which domestic work can be practiced and defined in both countries. It analyses women’s narratives in the present and past tense to explore different situations before and after they come into contact with an NGO that advocates for domestic workers’ rights. Since their childhood, the women interviewed have worked in various kin and non-kin households, and performed different types of domestic work (formal and informal, paid and unpaid, live-in and live-out). The asymmetrical and hierarchical relationships between employees and employers are ambiguous and often confused with kinship or distant kinship. These ambiguities come to the fore precisely when projects fostered by labour activists aim at the formalization of hired care work, that is, skilled employment made up of clearly defined tasks, regulated by written contracts, rights and responsibilities. In contexts where labor protections are poorly enforced, proposals to formalize domestic work can provide an essential reference point for the collective mobilization of women workers. At the same time, proposed solutions favoring the formalization of hired work might clash with local realities and not necessarily be perceived as appropriate by domestic workers.

How to Cite
Cirillo, S. (2023) “Conceptualizing practices of care in women’s lives. A domestic work case study in Ethiopia and Tanzania”, Anuac, 12(1), pp. 3-28. doi: 10.7340/anuac2239-625X-5207.