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Posted : 29 November 2011

Fatherhood and the nation that ain’t got any!

 Category: Civil Society

I barely involve myself in conversations with groups on Sundays – except the immediate family and of course, on the odd occasion when the bigger clan demands it – and there is a simple reason for it. I reserve Sundays for hibernation and reflection in preparation for the week ahead.

This was not the case Sunday last (Nov 27, 2011) and the difference was due to curiosity and interest I had (and hold) in a high level (almost totally academic) discussion held at the Red Location Museum on “fatherhood” organized by the Arts department of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

I am always fascinated by the subject and whenever an opportunity presents itself I make a point of attending to hear what people have to say about fatherhood.

 Two US professors A. J Franklin (Boston College) and wife Nancy Boyd-Franklin (Rutgers University) were in the mix along our own down here (Dr Jeff Govender, Prof Velile Notshulwana and Sicelo Duze) banded together to lead the discussion on “what fatherhood means” in 2011 in South Africa.

 The choice of a museum for the gathering and discussion on a Sunday afternoon seemed an irony of coincidence and the huge turnout of men (outnumbering women by 11 to 1) seemed to betray both the misunderstanding of the breath and depth of the topic as well as the intent of the discussion.

 Anyhow, so there we were at the Red Location Museum, Sunday afternoon; sharing our understanding of what it meas to be a father – an examination of established and perceived truths about the role of men as fathers.

 It emerged that:

  • fatherhood is a huge responsibility that accords both leadership and servant status to the man and because of it
  • fathers have a duty and responsibility to be ever present in the lives of their children. This implies both a physical and spiritual presence, first while alive (and living with the children) and later when they have passed on! “Leave a legacy, leave a mark of fatherhood!” Was the message.
  • fatherhood is not limited to own biological offspring, but men and fathers primarily need to recognize and accept that they also have a duty and responsibility to children of their immediate community
  • creating family (biological and otherwise) networks is among critical steps to ensuring the impact and influencing of positive fatherhood within both family and community as well as society at large
  • only men can be fathers and they need to recognize and accept that despite numerous challenges that confront them, including efforts towards broad empowerment of women through equality processes. In other words, the empowerment of women through affirmative action and related, while good, desirable and yet a challenge to established roles of men and fathers, this needs accommodation in the reaffirmation of men as fathers both in the immediate family and in the community at large.
I left as soon as the discussion lead panel had made its mark and the floor was beginning to grapple with the direction pointed. By the time I left, I had set on that chair for close on three hours and for the day, I had done little of what I do on Sundays!

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