For years, the outside of Patuma Stone and Stone William’s home has been a telling reflection of their marriage—a disparate display of plaster, bricks and unfinished business.
Now, after three children and nearly three decades together, they’re finally beginning to work as one and seeing progress.
“I realized that involving my wife in decision-making could improve our family life, as we would be agreeing on areas of investment which are important to us both than me alone,” William said.
The 53-year-old credits his change of heart and mind to participating in couples’ discussions led by Project Concern International (PCI) and the Women Empowered (WE) component of the Njira Project. Njira is a five-year program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development to improve food security in the Balaka and Machinga Districts of Malawi.
Gender equality and food security might not seem interconnected. However, when women face discrimination and have limited access to resources, services and job opportunities, vulnerable households struggle to grow socially and economically. Njira seeks to educate couples on the benefits of joint decision-making at both the household and community levels as well as the need for equal participation by men and women in the development process. To date, a total of 350 people from villages in each target district have participated in couples’ discussions facilitated by WE.
“I cannot remember when my suggestions were implemented as part of running our house,” said Stone, recalling a season when her husband sold their crops and spent less than 5 percent of the profits on necessities. “We could not share as a family on key developments in the home as there was lack of openness.”
William said his hesitation to involve his wife in key decision-making stemmed from long-held traditional beliefs in his village that women should assume more subservient roles. After joining a WE/Village Savings and Loan (VSL) group with Stone and participating in couples’ workshops, he now sees the value of challenging those social norms and working as a team. In fact, the name of their WE/VSL group is “Tiyanjane,” which means “Let us come together” in Chichewa (a major language in Malawi).
“For the first time in the 29 years we have been married, my husband entrusted me to sell our farm produce,” Stone said of the changes that have begun to take place in their relationship. “… We can now jointly decide on how to spend the proceeds on the sales.”
The couple also started a small business with loans they received from Tiyanjane and are finally investing in home repairs that Stone has wanted to do for years.
For more information about the Njira project in Malawi, visit https://www.pciglobal.org/malawi/.
PCI provides almost 500,000 women around the globe with the tools, knowledge and resources to unlock their full potential and catalyze change in their families and communities. As a result, over 30,000 WE groups have saved more than $3.5 million they use as capital to build their own businesses, send their kids to school and improve their homes. To learn more about the WE initiative, visit https://www.pciglobal.org/womenempowered/.