Tackling the problem of absent fathers head on is a group of men from Khayelitsha, Gugulethu and surrounding areas. They call themselves Fathers On The Move and they are committed to break stereotypes and to lead by example.
The role of fathers is an important one but statistics show that many South African children are raised by their mothers or grandparents. A shocking finding in a Stats SA report, South Africa's Young Children: Their Parents and Home Environment, states that only 33% of black children live with their fathers.
“There is a belief in our surroundings that men don’t need to show emotional support to their children and partners. We believe this should be challenged and we are here to support fathers that want to have a more active role in their children’s lives.”
These are the words of Mzwandile (Zwai) Lugogo, a 33-year-old father of four and a member of the Fathers on the Move group, a joint partnership between the youth development NPO called Salesian Life Choices and the local Khayelitsha branches of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and Médecins Sans Frontières(MSF).
For Salesian Life Choices this is their first all-male group taking part in the organisation’s Family Affairs programme that focuses on parenting skills, one-on-one psychosocial support and job search. Sofia Neves, Life Choices Managing Director, says “We understand the essential role that fathers play in the lives of their children. The majority of youth we work with, tell us how hurt, angry and disappointed they are with their absent fathers. We saw the partnership with MSF as an opportunity to bring our existent family intervention to groups of men.”
As a result of this partnership a group of 27 men decided to start the Fathers on the Move group. “The aim and purpose of our group is to prove that South African men care. We are addressing the role that men play in communities. We are committed to lead by example,” says Zingisana Nkanjeni.
Putting their message into action, the group recently hosted a fun day at Dora Tamarna pre-school in Khayelitsha with 69 children. The group organised activities that focused around the areas of art, story-telling, marimba, poetry and drumming. This day had two main objectives, the first was to prove that men and children can have fun together, and the second was to introduce children to more positive male figures in their community.
Noluthando Kwayimani, Family Affairs Facilitator, explains that the day was a great success and had a positive impact on everyone involved: “You could tell that everyone had an amazing time, the day showed others the great role that men can play.”
Stemming from communities with high unemployment and poverty levels, these men are proving that there is no excuse not to be a good father and that high levels of black absent fathers can be something of the past.