Fourways Review

Non-profit organisation launches webinar series about fatherhood

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A non-profit company focusing on social issues has released its findings after starting a webinar series about fatherhood in South Africa.

Heartlines, the Centre for Values Promotion, in partnership with the DSI-NRF Centre of Human Excellence and the National Research Foundation, hosted the first of the four-part webinar series on 16 August.

The webinar was moderated by Heartlines CEO Dr Garth Japhet, and included panellists Latasha Slavin, research manager at Heartlines, and Wessel van den Berg, head of the children’s rights and positive parenting unit at Sonke Gender Justice.

Van den Berg presented the 2018 State of South Africa’s Fathers report, which is an advocacy document aimed at improving policies and programmes that support fathers'
involvement, as well as facilitating a broader narrative on fatherhood in SA.

The report indicates that although only 36 per cent of South African children live with their biological fathers, 71 per cent of South African children live with an adult male in the household.

It also found that children from lower socio-economic strata were less likely to live with both biological parents than children from higher socio-economic groups.

In line with this, the Heartlines Fathers Matter Report found that in South Africa, the definition of fatherhood is closely linked to the ability to provide financially. Unemployment and the inability to provide is a barrier to active participation of fathers.

Fathers who provided financially were described by participants as being ‘caring and loving’, whereas those that could not provide were seen as irresponsible and unstable or uncaring.

For many men in the study, the inability to provide led to feelings of shame and low self-esteem. This, together with rising unemployment rates in South Africa, left many men out of active participation with their children.

However, some men have intentionally worked to change their relationship with their own children, despite growing up without positive father role-models themselves. For these men, fatherhood brought the realisation of what they had ‘lost’ in the absence of their own fathers, and an active decision to be positively present for their children.

Going forward, Sonke Gender Justice will launch a new State of South Africa’s Fathers report in 2021 that will provide findings on social fathers, father involvement, and attitudes to and the use of paternal leave.

It will also cover a collection of published research and there will be a launch of a new institution which focuses on fatherhood research and advocacy.

The next events in the webinar series will cover the topics of overcoming toxic masculinities in South Africa, fatherhood and the first 1 000 days, and positive interventions for fathers.

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