In the heart of Karonga in Mbwiri Village under Group Village Headman Mwagwera TA Kilupula, a remarkable transformation is taking place within the family of Betorn Mwakilama and Mayilina Lukuta. Their journey is a testament to the positive impact of Strengthening Marriages and Relationships through Communication and Planning (SMART) couple’s program that is strengthening bonds, promoting communication, and fostering lasting change. This remarkable project, a collaboration between Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Lusubilo Community Care, has been helping couples communicate better, make decisions together and strengthen their bonds.

Project interventions

The program prepares cohabitating couples on better ways to communicate and adopt joint decision-making behaviors around such areas as agriculture, WASH, nutrition, maternal and child health, natural family planning and households’ economics. The intervention uses the socio-ecological model of behavior change. Research shows that SMART Couples who successfully adopt the new behavior and communication techniques are better able to plan effectively and advance the well-being of the family.

This Gender and Child Protection Project uses the SMART Couples Approach, and the lessons are driven from the Faithful House Curriculum with the aim of building strong families to affirm life and avoid risks.

Vitumbiko Chavula, the Gender and Child Protection Officer, articulately describes how the Faithful House Curriculum program views the physical house as a metaphor for a family’s structure. “In this analogy, the foundation represents God’s ordination of marriage, while the pillars symbolize true love, faithfulness, and respect for human life, dignity, and communication. The walls signify family priorities, the door represents authority, responsibility, and accountability, and the window denotes forgiveness. The roof, on the other hand, symbolizes consciousness, and the program also delves into the realms of positive parenting and economic empowerment. These topics serve as catalysts for changing mindsets and behaviors in households”. She said.

The Impact of the Program

The changes observed within Betorn Mwakilama and Mayilina Lukuta’s family are truly inspiring. It has been observed that on household collaboration, the husband now actively participates in household chores, showing that gender roles can be flexible and shared. On conflict resolution, instead of resorting to violence during disagreements, the couple now settles their issues harmoniously, emphasizing the power of effective communication. Again, on decision making the family has transitioned from unilateral decisions to collaborative planning, ensuring that both spouses contribute to family decisions, particularly regarding finances.

On Economic Empowerment, the husband has transitioned from selling harvests for personal indulgence to making joint financial decisions with his wife, supporting the family’s needs, and allowing economic growth. And on education support the husband is now actively involved in his. On Spiritual Growth the family has embraced the significance of their faith, attending church together and encouraging their children’s spiritual development. Lukuta explained:

Now we are able to resolve our conflicts amicably and the budget is now made jointly, which previously was not achievable. My husband is now able to help the family, a thing which was not happening in the past. Because of the lessons that we have learned, we are now communicating more effectively as a pair, which was not the case in the past. He now understands the value of spending time together as a family”.

She added that at first their family was not attending church activities but after learning that God is the source of marriage and that it was ordained by God, they are now able to attend church activities together and they encourage their kids to attend nursery school.

Evidence of change

The evidence of change is clear and profound in the way that the family is now constructing a house, symbolizing progress and stability. The husband was reluctant to provide for his family but now with the coming in of SMART Couple program, he is able to purchase clothings for his spouse and children. Joint budgeting and planning have become a reality, demonstrating financial responsibility. Instances of domestic violence have significantly reduced as conflict resolution methods have improved. The family now enjoys quality time together, fostering a strong and loving bond. They have a garden in their backyard, which is promoted in the lessons.

As this family’s story unfolds, it is a testament to the power of programs that empower couples and families to grow together. The transformation within the family of Betorn Mwakirama and Mayilina Lukuta reflects the positive impact of the program in Mbwiri Village, where stronger, more harmonious families are being built from the ground up.

By Communication Office.

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