South Africa: My blessings call me Dad!

South Africa: My blessings call me Dad!

Date: June 21, 2013
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Johannesburg, 21 June: “There are no perfect fathers, only ones who care.” I repeat this to myself regularly, as I walk this challenging and demanding path of raising two young daughters.

The rewards are sometimes immediate – a hug, kiss and cuddle on the sofa, as I pretend that I am thoroughly enjoying watching Peppa Pig, while on the sports channel Zimbabwe are six runs away from victory or Liverpool are one goal down with six minutes to go!

I’ll choose quality time with my daughters over sports games any day. I can always watch the highlights later once I’ve tucked my blessings into bed.

Other rewards take time and not as easily earned. Zuwa, my youngest, after shedding countless tears over homework assignments, triumphantly walks through the door four weeks later, with 95% on her math’s test. Chiedza insists I come to her classroom and pulls me to the back wall where her painting hangs, so she and daddy can proudly muse together.

Raising daughters comes with fears too. I get frightened as I watch my daughters go to school each day. If they go wandering at the shopping mall, I panic until they are back in my sight.

These may be fears most fathers experience, but they should not be! I look at the figures on gender-based violence (GBV) with despair. The growing spate of rapes and child abuse unnerve and anger me, and I worry about my daughters’ futures.

According to a recent Gender Link’s study called The War@Home: Findings of the GBV prevalence in South Africa, over 77% of women in Limpopo, 51% in Gauteng, 45% in the Western Cape and 36% in Kwa-Zulu Natal report experiencing some form of violence at least once in their lifetime both within and outside their intimate relationships. This is indeed a war on women.

I also look at figures from the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC), which show that in South Africa an estimated 46% of children by the age of twelve are growing up without an active father in their lives.

Evidence shows that this high rate of fathers’ absenteeism translates into young women who are more vulnerable to sexual violence, transactional sex and early pregnancies.

Furthermore, the social and economic consequences of young women raising children on their own, missing education and work opportunities, trap women in a cycle of poverty.

This begs the question: How can we help the women of today and tomorrow?

Nothing will change unless we radically re-examine what we are doing to combat this war against women.

This is where the personal act of raising children becomes a political act of commitment to positive change. My fears will not abate if I give up on tackling GBV and if I abdicate my responsibilities as a father and a man, leaving this struggle solely to women.

There is a need for more men’s support groups, because these spaces are missing from our current women-only approach to tackling GBV and child abuse.

These spaces also need to collaborate with women in order to broaden our work on gender equality and ending GBV. There also needs to be increased willingness from women’s movements to open up debate, because without dialogue there is no solidarity. To change society for the better, women and men must work together.

It is imperative that men change their individual attitudes and behaviours. We need to be clear about what we want to see in young men and this vision demands that men and fathers be at the forefront of driving change.

Fatherhood is not just about fathering children. President Obama is often quoted, “Any fool can make a baby in five minutes, but it takes a man to be a dad!” Fatherhood is lifetime commitment to an everyday endeavor.

For me, part of this commitment is never forgetting to thank my children for making me a Dad, because there are many fathers who do not appreciate this role. Absent fathers, do not know what they are missing, but their kids and single Mums who do!

Any society where large numbers of men fail to nurture their children through childhood and into adulthood is a failing society, despite any other successes.

Let’s keep up the commitment to being good dads and driving positive change. There is nothing more magical than truly loving your children, your children truly loving you, and having your children sincerely calling you “Dad”.

Trevor Davies is a gender activist and the founder of the African Fathers Initiative. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service, special series on celebrating Phenomenal Fathers, bringing you fresh views on everyday news.



0 thoughts on “South Africa: My blessings call me Dad!”

Lidia Chirambasukwa says:

If these articles could be published so that most fathers learn that it is a blessing to see your child grow. As a father you will be part of your child’s life and the relationship will be inseparable. As most daughters are more close to their fathers than mothers. I urge those fathers to encourage all men to spend quality time with their families. I salute the Phenomenal Fathers and I feel sorry for those fathers who don’t spend quality time with their daughters be it at the shops, football game or just going for a walk cos they don’t know what they are missing.

sofia says:

brilliant article. I just wish more and more fathers could be challenged by this super dad.true Lidia, a child is only a child once. they are missing out!

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