A GENDER Links and United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) initiative dubbed the ‘husband school’ has already started bearing fruit in Mokhotlong.
Gender Links and United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) started the programme from August to December last year as part of efforts to end gender-based violence.
Women whose husbands have gone through the programme recently told the Sunday Express that their spouses had reformed and left behind their old abusive behaviour. They said the initiative has restored peace in their homes.
One such woman is ‘Mabasia Fako. Her husband, Mothetho, is one of the 20 Mokhotlong men who enrolled in the programme last year and she says she is already seeing positive changes.
Before attending classes at this unique school, Mr Fako made unilateral decisions, subjecting his childhood sweetheart Ms Fako to 20 years of emotional abuse.
The Fako family heavily depends on selling wool and mohair. In between the shearing of sheep and goats, the family relies on selling its livestock.
The family owns 100 sheep, 13 cattle, two horses and three donkeys. For years, Mr Fako had been making unilateral decisions in terms of his family’s finances. Worse still, his wife had even accepted this as normal behaviour.
“It was normal for my husband to sell our sheep and decide how much to give me without even consulting me and I never knew that it was abuse,” Ms Fako said adding, “I was not allowed to question”.
“He never got to assault me but each time I asked for explanations on some decisions that he would have made, I could tell that I was heading for a beating. In the end I would just keep quiet.”
However, she started seeing positive changes in her husband after he started attending classes at the husband school.
With every class Mr Fako attended, there came a positive behavioural change that took Ms Fako by surprise.
And a year after the completion of the classes, Ms Fako has only praises for her husband and the husband school initiative.
“There has been a huge change ever since the programme was introduced,” Ms Fako said with a beaming smile.
“I am no longer treated like a child in my own family. We are now able to sit down and discuss how we want to do things. He is no longer selling our livestock without consulting me. After collecting money from sales of wool and mohair, he brings all the money home so that we can plan together.”
Although she has never been beaten by her husband, Ms Fako has seen bruises on her fellow women’s faces, evidence of beatings.
Before the programme, she used to hear women crying for help late in the night. Ms Fako has heard stories of women who ran for their dear lives leaving their matrimonial homes in the dead of the night.
For these women to report the abuse to the police, they had to walk up to four hours. Others instead dread the long walks and endure the beatings.
“Besides the long distance, it was a normal thing to many women,” Ms Fako said.
But after attending the husband school with Mr Fako, Ms Fako says she has seen a dramatic change. Apart from reforming men, the programme has also enlightened women about their rights.
“In our village we no longer hear cases of men physically abusing their wives and this is all thanks to this programme.”
Over the weekend, Gender Links and UNFPA visited the area to follow-up on the programme and ensure that graduates like Mr Fako, have not defaulted.
The two organisations and a group of journalists found Mr Fako hard at work in the fields with eight other men. On noticing the visitors, the stocky light-skinned man greeted us with a smile.
In an interview with the Sunday Express, Mr Fako said the programme opened his eyes.
“Excluding my wife from decision-making was just normal for me. I thought I was leading a normal life because I was raised to know and believe that as a provider, a man must make decisions for his family.
“The programme opened my eyes and now I know we must sit down as partners and decide how we want to do things in our family…
“Of course, we still have our differences but we are able to talk about them in a more civil manner. In the past, we would go for up to a week without talking to each other whenever there were problems but we are now able to talk issues out, we are a happier family,” said the father of three – two girls and a boy.
He says his wife is now at liberty to raise issues in their family.
While he is happy with the change now, it has not been an easy journey.
“It has not been easy because this is something totally different from what I was used to.”
Lehlohonolo Fako, another villager who attended the programme echoed similar sentiments.
“Since taking part in the husband school programme and also having talks with other men in our village, there has been a huge improvement and we thankful for that.
Mr Lehlohonolo said they have already started engaging boys so that they can also nurture them into better future husbands.
On her part, Gender Links Lesotho country manager ‘Manteboheleng Mabetha said the two organisations expected the graduates to go back to their villages and share knowledge with others.
“We want men to change their attitude towards the gender-based violence. This training was meant to change the harmful attitude which has turned into a norm especially in this rural villages,” said Mabetha.