In rural Malawi, a new comic book on the topic of gender is helping communities to learn, discuss and progress gender equality.
After reading through the book, Ikombe village headman, and Farmer Field School participant John Mtambo was inspired to become a special trainer on the topic.
“I could personally relate to many issues covered in the book, such as issues of budgeting, joint decision making, being responsible citizens and nutrition. These were issues that also affected most of the people in my community.”
Mtambo now reaches out to other community members to help understand their gender issues and to promote best practices. One common issue is decisions on spending household income – these decisions are mainly madeare mostly undertaken by men despite women producing around 70% of food on small farms. “So you can imagine having worked so hard, and then you don’t reap the fruits of the harvest. This was so demotivating to women, however through the comic book families are learning to jointly make decisions on everything at home.” says John.
John’s wife Evelyn has also noticed a positive change within their household. “Before the introduction of the gender training, John made all market and expenditure decisions by himself, just like most of the husbands in the village. The situation is now different, we plan jointly on how much to sell and how much to save and what we should do with the income.”
By asking questions through images, the gender comic book and training aims to support families to work and make decisions together that benefit everyone. The format of a comic book was chosen to accommodate varying levels of literacy, with Self Help Africa Learning and Communication Specialist Pauline Mbukwa explaining: “Even if members of the community are not able to read, we can still get the message across through the use of the images in the book. The comic book was also designed to facilitate group discussions amongst the members of our Farmer Field Schools – so the group can learn together, and from one another too.”
The comic book and gender training is part of the KULIMA BETTER project – employing the Gender Action Learning System (GALS) approach. The GALS approach brings improved collaboration, work sharing on care and economic tasks, equitable decision-making, shared use of productive assets among all family members and improved farm level decision-making.
The overall goal of the KULIMA BETTER project is sustainable agricultural growth, to increase incomes, employment, food and nutrition security in Malawi, in the context of a changing climate.