This Mandela Day, men should recommit to fatherhood. These are the words of Global Brands' product manager at Population Services International (PSI), Ndinatsei Mumbengegwi.
Mumbengegwi, who heads the company associated with Trust Condoms, has made this call ahead of this year’s Nelson Mandela Day observed annually on 18 July on the birthday of the former statesman.
“As we come together to recognise again the legacy of the man we call the Father of the Nation, there is no better time for men to recommit following his lead,” she said in a statement.
She says that the epidemic of fatherlessness is at the root of many of the social ills that plague South Africa.
“Fatherless children — and especially fatherless boys—are more likely to become troubled adults. Fatherless homes are typically poorer, and behavioural issues are more likely. These can in turn lead to a greater incidence of drug or alcohol abuse, and poor overall emotional and physical health,” she said in a statement.
Mumbengegwi is of the view that children and individuals raised in a fatherless environment are likely to struggle with school work and school environment, which is why it is important for men to rise up and be present and consistent parents to their children.
“Individuals raised in this environment do less well at school on average, and teenage pregnancy is more common. All of these issues negatively impact individuals and communities, and this pattern tends to repeat itself across the generations,” she added.
According to statistics, South Africa is not the only country with a high percentage of fatherless households. She said this scourge is even worse in America, where almost a quarter of children live in single-parent homes.
“The problem is less acute overall in this country, but figures from Statistics South Africa indicate that the burden is spread unevenly across population groups. Only 31.7% of black children live with their biological fathers, with the figure at 51.3% for coloured children. The figures are much higher for Asians (86.1%) and whites (80.2%),’’ she said.
Mumbengegwi says that Trust Condoms is determined to help overcome this complex challenge. This comes after the launch of a programme to encourage men to become a better version of themselves on Valentine’s Day this year, followed by The Good Men Conference on 28 February. The latter provided a virtual and in-person forum for men to share stories and recommit to taking up the fatherhood role.
Mumbengegwi says that men who have children should commit to being better fathers by putting aside time to spend with them and clean up their acts with their partners and/ or the children’s mother.
“Men can also join or start a man’s group to share challenges and gain inspiration and support in their journey to become a better man. Men, especially those who are not fathers, can also play a positive role by offering to mentor fatherless boys—what’s wanted is a role model, and it doesn’t have to be the biological father, she says. Here, even though the fatherlessness crisis is worst in the black population, the group’s strong culture of extended families holds the key to the solution.
“Taking these positive steps has the potential to make a big change in society,” she said.