Strengthening family ties among rural populations in Western Uganda

Coaching sessions are fostering harmony, joint decision-making, respect, financial transparency, and management among households in the IKEA Foundation-funded SMILES project

Countries Uganda
Date 03.06.2024
Author by Elijah Baguma Bbala, Communications Technical Advisor - SMILES Project

In September 2013, Scovia Mungucwiyo met Pius Warom in Kyehoro Village, Kikuube District in Western Uganda. Regardless of Scovia’s parent’s disapproval of Pius, the young couple proceeded with their matrimony. After the wedding, Pius changed–the heavy alcohol consumption, verbal and physical abuse even with the slightest of mistakes Scovia made turned into a downward spiral.

The burden of securing food and rent solely rested on Scovia's shoulders. She ran a business selling fish and food items such as tomatoes, red pepper and beans, every penny earned was expended on immediate needs without any savings.

“Since the inception of my marriage, I found myself entangled in a cycle of violence. Each passing day, my husband engaged in raging fights, frequented night discos, and returned home consumed by alcohol which had become his nourishment. He overshadowed his responsibility of providing for our household,” explains Scovia.

On the other hand, Pius a fisherman had his addiction to alcohol barred his involvement in household chores and parenting, thusly leaving their home in a state of agony and disharmony.

He is a humble and humane person when sober so I waited when he was in that state to narrate the torment I faced when he was drunk. He consistently asked for pardon but without change, while using alcohol as an excuse for his erratic actions and poor memory,” states Scovia.

“Save for the abuse, he was channeling all income from his fishing endeavors into alcohol consumption. The toxic environment brought me shame amongst other women in the community and affected my self-esteem and that of our children and their interactions with peers,” adds Scovia.

The couple never found a point in time to plan as a family and to maintain a semblance of peace. Scovia refrained from seeking financial assistance or questioning Pius’ actions, enduring a life of silence. She decided to seek aid from the husband’s relatives and the local council 1 which proved futile, thus thickening the distressing situation.

Upon their household’s enrollment to the Sustainable Market Inclusive Livelihood Pathways to Self-Reliance (SMILES) project, the parents of four children decided to engage in the project activities right from the pre-coaching to the coaching sessions, Village Saving and Loans Association and Farmer Field and Business School trainings.

Scovia emphasized that coaching sessions contributed majorly to their household. She underscored the transformative shift of her 27-year-old husband: he currently plans for the household’s basic needs, is financially transparent, and provides for her needs and makes sure she looks presentable in the community. He has significantly curbed his alcohol intake.

My husband is now a responsible man; he respects me, he relinquished all of his former groupies, drinks occasionally, returns home early and spends quality time with me. All we converse about is the future plans for our household and the betterment of our family as we also throw jokes at each other,” declares Scovia with a smile.

The couple can now amicably resolve their skirmishes, with Pius actively contributing to household duties, and advocating for practical financial management.

“From my fishing venture, I have purchased a male goat at UGX 200,000 (Euro 48). We plan to continue saving UGX 10,000 (Euro 2.4) per week and also ensure the education of our children by using profits derived from the retail and fishing businesses,” affirms Pius.

Empowered by these changes, Scovia has committed to remaining in her marriage, while stressing continuous dialogue and cooperation in order to sustain a harmonious family life.

“It was so helpful to attend the project activities as partners because the sessions were insightful. The topic of ‘Exploring and Sharing Household Responsibilities’ and ‘Basics of Gender’ highlighted distribution of household roles, the negative effects of domestic violence and action planning together. These sessions had a remarkable impact on Pius,” says Scovia.

About SMILES project

The Sustainable Market Inclusive Livelihood Pathways to Self-Reliance (SMILES) project is a five-year (November, 2022 – October, 2027) initiative funded by the IKEA Foundation. The project works with 14,000 households (extremely poor refugee and host community) comprising 70,000 individuals in Kyaka II and Kyangwali Refugee Settlements in Western Uganda with the aim of supporting them to become resilient.

The project delivers a graduation model integrated with a Market System Development approach targeting women and youth and their household members. Key sectors include livelihoods, agriculture, food security, protection, energy and environment. The project is implemented by AVSI Foundation in partnership with UNHCR and the Office of the Prime Minister and in a consortium with Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), Renewable Energy, Powering Agriculture and Rural Livelihoods Enhancement (REPARLE), Makerere University Kampala, and DAI Global LLC (DAI).