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Fathers urged to step up beyond their special day

Father's Day on the Sea Point Promenade. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Father's Day on the Sea Point Promenade. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Jun 23, 2022

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Cape Town - As Father’s Day celebrations came to an end, a clarion call was made by several organisations for fathers to be more present.

Sonke Gender Justice (Sonke), Centre for Analytics and Behaviour Change (CABC), Heartlines, and Innovation Edge (IE) hosted a dialogue titled “Beyond Father’s Day”, about the urgency of increasing father involvement in child care in South Africa and how to see this realised.

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The online event covered topics: disrupting the “absent father” narrative by focusing on father involvement; fatherhood across generations and the effects of intergenerational norms and behaviours; and broadening notions of fatherhood to include social fathers.

Fathers Matter Project Co-ordinator Lereko Mfono, said the Heartlines project found that men’s active, positive presence meant improved educational outcomes for children; reduction in risk of violence; less risk of substance abuse; less risk of teen pregnancy; and reduced levels of suicide and mental health issues.

Knowledge gap; resources; culture and gender; and finances were found to be the main barriere for fatherly involvement, Mfono said.

“Most of them were not fathered themselves, so in our country, how do we expect fathers who were not fathered to be able to know how to practically execute that role.”

It was also found that if a father was involved in the life of his child during the first 1 000 days, most often he would stay for the rest of the child’s life.

State of SA Fathers Report 2021 editor Tawanda Makusha said one of the key messages from the report was on how fatherhood extended beyond biology.

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“In most households, men live with children who are not biologically theirs. These men are called social fathers, they may be uncles, brothers, stepfathers, and we also have community members who play a critical fathering role to children.”

These men could play fatherhood roles in terms of financial, social, and cultural needs, Makusha said.

“We need to then acknowledge that in South Africa, and elsewhere in Africa and the world.”

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