Women are at the centre of family life in St. Vincent
and the Grenadines. They are responsible for raising children, caring for
the elderly, who often live with them, and tending the family garden. Mothers
typically work long hours; they do the family washing and cooking and grow
and sell produce. Consequently, older children, grandparents, aunts and
uncles living in the household often help look after infants and young
children. Almost 40% of the country's households are headed by women.
Family arrangements include legal marriage, common-law cohabitation and "visiting unions" or "friending," in which the man and woman live apart and the woman raises their children. Teenage girls often bear children before reaching adulthood and raise them in the family home. Men may father children with various women, and women may raise children who have different fathers. Regardless of the family arrangement, fathers usually maintain strong ties with their children.
Most Vincentians own their homes, which they usually
build themselves or inherit. A typical house is a bungalow; some have only
two rooms. Until recently, houses in rural areas often had no running water
or electricity, and the mother or one of the children had to walk to the
community pump to fetch water. Today, almost all homes have water and
People usually own small plots of land on which they grow produce. They use some crops to feed the family and sell the surplus at market. The soil in St. Vincent is rich, and wild growth is abundant, so maintaining a garden with hand tools can take up much of the family's time. In rural areas, it is common for children to work on the land or care for younger siblings instead of attending school.
In the Grenadines, centuries of isolation have strongly
influenced the culture. Because of the lack of freshwater sources on most islands,
every household collects rainwater in barrels and buckets. Most peoples' livelihoods
depend on the sea; the men are skilled fishermen, sailors and boat builders. Some
men work on merchant ships and yachts and travel around the world.