Gender-based division of labour is a system practised throughout the world; in precolonial times the Southern Highlands of Tanzania was no exception. Given that gender-based division of labour was established by tradition, it was feared that breaching cultural norms by transgressing labour boundaries would bring on a curse. Even so, women assumed the extra burden of tasks left by their migrant husbands. This included clearing the land, which was chiefly a man’s duty, and so meant violating cultural norms. Since women traditionally had not been obliged to clear the land, they employed various tactical strategies to facilitate this, such as paying available men to perform the task. We argue in this article that this decision, despite its complexity, promoted women’s decision-making and enabled them to enjoy a degree of autonomy and manage all stages of crop cultivation. In analysing the data, we use the Gender Analysis Framework, which captures the central issues of gender. The results show that, apart from other mechanisms, the phenomenon of male migrant labour boosted the status of women, as well as their decisionmaking and autonomy. Consequently, women gained more – the situation for them was one of ‘fertility’ rather than a curse.