I am Kamal Paudel from Kapilvastu. I am a facilitator for the project ‘Change Starts at Home’. As a facilitator I, along with 10 group members meet every week and listen to the radio program ‘Samajhdari’, discuss the issues raised during the program and use those learnings in our daily life to build a strong and happy marital relationship.
The main objective of these weekly discussion is to establish that both husband and wife have equal roles and responsibilities in a marriage, while disregarding the prevailing norms and values which exists due to our strongly rooted patriarchal society. During discussions we…talk about men and women having equal life choices and freedoms and how we can have a strong and happy relationship between a husband and wife by respecting each other.
Some of the group members used to think that it was okay to scold their wives. They believed that since they are the breadwinner of the family, their wife should do as they are told. But now they have come to understand that their wives are their partners for life, their wives have compromised many things for the family and both husband and wife should try to understand each other and continue their journey together…
At the beginning when the program started, they thought that this program was just like many others and would phase out over time. But after a few weeks they started realizing that this program was bringing positive changes in their lives and they often tell me that it should go on for longer than it is planned for…Before they used to tell me that they cannot find 2 hours every week for discussion but these days they tell me that it’s not long enough. Before I had to remind my members every week about the session whereas these days they call me and remind me about the program. These days I find them taking initiatives during our discussion and they are always very punctual and because of this, I know that the group members are very interested in the weekly session.
The group members tell me that they have started talking about sex more openly as a couple. They thought that sex was only a pleasurable thing for men, however now they are also concerned about their wives desires and interests. They have also realized that it is important to understand the emotions, desires and interest of each other in order to have a healthy sexual relationship, which plays an important part in any marital relationship….over half of the group members have told me that their wives have started initiating sex, before it was always the husband who initiated it.
Another important learning that my group members have shared is that sex without consent is marital rape, whether or not a wife makes an issue out of it. They believed that if a wife had sex without her consent and she didn’t make an issue out of it then it was okay. But now after listening to the program they are well aware that any sexual relationship needs to have consent of both husband and wife otherwise it is rape. When we first started meeting for the weekly discussion, the men in my group used to think that their wife should be ready when they are ready. But as the week progressed, they have realized that it might not be the case. They need to respect their wives interests and desires as well and should never force sex upon them. They also said that if the wife initiates sex then it’s even better, which they had never experienced before they participated in the program. And they also said that they never talked about sex with their spouse before whereas these days they have an open conversation about such matters.
Apart from this, the members tell me that there is less misunderstanding and conflict between them… Earlier if the couple had an argument they either wouldn’t talk to each other or they would have a huge fight. These days they talk to each other and try to get to the bottom of things. They have developed empathy towards each other, which has helped in improving relationship with in-laws as well…They have found a solid and understanding relationship with each other…
One of my group member has shared that he used to drink alcohol a lot but after taking part in the program he has reduced his drinking habit significantly. He told me that he had never cooked or cleaned his entire life but after coming to the session he has started cooking and cleaning in the house. Since he has stopped drinking, he doesn’t have any arguments or fights with his wife…him and his wife have managed to find the same old romance between them which they had when they were newlywed! There is another member in my group who is often seen doing everything together with his wife these days. They do all the housework together and then go to work together as well. He tells me that before he used to feel embarrassed when he was out with his wife. But after participating in the program, they realized that if a couple have power balance between themselves and work together then they can achieve financial gain as well as have a happy marital life.
This program has also brought changes in my life. My wife and I listen to the program together. We have started having better communication between each other. We don’t fight as often as we used to before. Also, my community members trust me more these days. Whenever there is any issue between any couple in my village, they seek me out and ask me to talk to those couples. I have become more mature and self-aware. I used to leave all the house work to my wife but these days I let her focus on her studies and I do the house work whenever I am at home.