Transformation at home: Campaign empowering Nepal’s rural couples, eliminating violence

Transformation at home: Campaign empowering Nepal’s rural couples, eliminating violence

Kathmandu : One of the first things one notices when they visit Binayi Tribeni Rural Municipality in Nawalpur district is that many houses sport an orange flag, shaped like two triangles joined together, akin to the shape of the Nepali flag. Each flag depicts a small family—father, mother, and daughter—with the words ‘hinsa mukta mero ghar’ (my home is violence free) below it.

“People often ask about these flags when they visit our village for the first time,” says Laxmi Pulami, a resident of Binayi Tribeni Ward-1. She sees this as an opportunity to introduce the Change Starts at Home campaign.

Change Starts at Home is a social and behaviour change campaign launched by the international not for profit organisation, Equal Access International (EAI), with the goal of reducing violence between couples in Nepal through media and community outreach.

These flags are part of the violence reduction campaign, and families displaying them in their homes have pledged to create violence-free spaces inside their homes.
Besides Binayi Tribeni, the project has been implemented in Hupsekot Rural Municipality in Nawalpur as well. According to EAI, these two municipalities were selected specifically because they are in Gandaki province, where 19 percent women of reproductive age have been reported experiencing intimate partner violence, as per a 2023 report by the Ministry of Health and Population.

Two hundred couples from Binayi Tribeni and Hupsekot took part in a 15-month intervention programme by EAI. For the project, the organisation had created a comprehensive violence prevention curriculum, titled ‘B.I.G Change Curriculum’. Couples participated in weekly interactive listening and discussion group meetings, community outreach activities and listened to a 39-episode radio drama series, titled ‘Samajdhari’.

A paper published in the ‘ScienceDirect SSM Population Health’ journal in March by Cari Jo Clark et al revealed that before launching the campaign, the EAI team conducted interviews with representatives from local judicial committees, as well as married men and women from the community. This aimed to assess local norms surrounding marriage, decision-making, and the nature of family disputes, ensuring that the curriculum content would be relevant and effective for the local context.

Transformation of life

Maniram Musahar and his wife Indu Musahar of Bankatti, Binayi Tribeni Ward-7, are example of the impact of the campaign. They have now seen their marital life going smooth following their participation in the full curriculum. The couple has been married for 15 years and have three daughters and two sons.

Their relationship soured a few years into marriage. Maniram, a farmer and fisherman, would return home drunk every night and physically assault his wife. “Although we shared a home, we avoided interaction because every time we spoke, it would escalate into heated arguments,” recalls Maniram.

In 2021, when the Change Starts at Home campaign began in Binayi Tribeni, the couple signed up for the awareness programme. As a result, their relationship improved gradually. “Now we make all the household decisions together. My husband hasn’t hit me for months and he even helps around the house with chores,” says Indu.

Laxmi Thapa from Binayi Tribeni Ward-3 Sardi, also shares that her relationship with her husband, Padam BK, has significantly improved since participating in the campaign. She reveals that earlier on, her husband would verbally abuse her whenever he was in a bad mood, especially after he had a few too many drinks, and would expect her to comply with his every wish. She recalls instances when he would demand her to cook meat late at night, despite having already had dinner hours earlier.

Unable to endure this treatment, she often would seek refuge at her parents’ house and dread returning home. However, after attending the Change Starts at Home sessions, BK’s behaviour changed significantly.

“I realised how important it was for me to interact with my wife with more love and respect,” he reflects, adding that he is committed to refraining from violence at home.

As a majority of houses in Binayi Tribeni declared themselves violence-free spaces, local residents and members of the local government called for the establishment of a Violence Free Campaign Committee in the municipality.

Pulami, who is the chairperson of the committee, shares that the local government now organises events and small-scale projects to advocate against violence. They have also allocated budgets in respective wards for this purpose.

“What brings me the most joy is hearing children speak about the increased love between their parents and within their families following the Change Starts at Home campaign,” says Pulami. While she and her family participated in some campaign events, they were not among the two hundred couples attending all sessions, as their marital relationship has been strong since marriage.

Nevertheless, she is pleased to witness a significant decrease in violence across the entire municipality.

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