It’s that time of the year again. 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence. Wouldn’t it be great if some day, there was no need for this campaign?
The thing is, while we appreciate the thought of encouraging people to take a stand against gender-based violence, we believe that a societal change such as the one we’re hoping for requires a deeper, longer focus. So we’re calling it #Beyond16Days.
We mustn’t stop until it ends – and it’ll take more than revisiting the issue on an annual basis.
As Fathers Matter, we want to talk about prevention rather than cure. We want to help break inter-generational cycles of violence in families by starting early. By teaching boys and girls that there’s a different, more caring way of doing things – and that they can be the change. We also want to encourage men to embrace the idea that they have huge potential to make a positive, lasting change in the lives of their children, if they are more involved in caring for their children. There’s so much more they can do than send money.
This will take more than a legislated change, more than a hotline and more than a campaign. It’s a heart change, starting with us. But it will be worth it.
Will you join us?
Violence is less likely in homes where fathers share chores equally
By Wessel Van Den Berg
When fathers play an active and equal role in the household and are a positive presence, it relieves the burden of care on mothers – but also results in a household where violence is less likely to take place.
There seems to be a relationship between men’s contribution to care work, their presence in the household, and the risk of violence.
More than 80% of children under the age of five live in single parent households with their mothers. Two of every three children live apart from their fathers. In addition, the workload in some is very high with women doing eight times the amount of care work in households that men do.
Known as an intergenerational cycle of violence, evidence from around the world shows that boys and girls who directly experience violence or witness violence against their mothers are more likely to repeat these patterns in their adult relationships.
Creating non-violent households
A long-term strategy to prevent male violence is to prevent violence against children, before they become adults.
But to prevent violence and improve gender equality, men must become more involved in household care work.
Working with men and fathers to challenge harmful beliefs around men, masculinity, and caregiving offers unique opportunities to address intimate partner violence and violence against children. It will also break the intergenerational cycle of violence.
Feelings about fathers
By Refilwe Mabula
Today, many children grow up without fathers in southern Africa, says Mzikazi Nduna, Associate Professor in the Psychology Department in the School of Human and Community Development at Wits.
In her research on gender-based violence and absent fathers, Nduna found that “children who grow up with an absent biological father tend to display behavioural problems and often experience more life trauma and distress compared to children who grow up residing with both parents.”
The role of fathers and rethinking the concept of fatherlessness
By Professor Letlhokwa George Mpedi
In other words, what is important is not the biology but rather the role that “a father” plays. Nduna outlines that the loss of this figure is often accompanied by distress and anxiety accompanied by a range of emotional, financial and psychological support deficits.
In the South African context, there are links that can be made between fatherlessness and gender-based violence. Gender-based violence is so prevalent that South Africa has been compared to war-torn nations. Calls for action go largely unheard, and the scourge persists as the root causes often remain unaddressed.
As Yandisa Sikweyiya et al found in 2016, children who grow up with absent fathers may be at an increased risk of experiencing various forms of GBV in their lives. However, the understanding of the links between GBV and absent fathers is currently inadequate and requires greater scrutiny. What is apparent, however, is that there is a sense of stability in homes with father figures.
As Eddy et al concluded, “seeking to address the prevalent absence of fathers will have to tackle both the predominant restrictive notions of masculinity and fatherhood and the current problematic dynamics that exist between men and women.
Fatherlessness is a leading cause of gender-based violence
By Elizabeth Mamacos
No man is born an abuser or a rapist, something happens on the journey from boy to man. Men growing up without fathers, mentors and role models often grow up wounded and without an understanding of what it means to be a man.
Authentic masculinity uses its strength well to love, serve, honour, protect and provide. Wounded men, with a false idea of what it means to be a man, are dangerous to both themselves and those around them.
They often become passive and fail to take responsibility for their lives, escaping into all kinds of addictions, or they become aggressive and abusive.
How do we turn this around?
This is not something that will self-correct. We need to intentionally restore, equip, inspire and mobilise men to be great fathers, mentors and role models.
This needs to become a national priority and needs to be aimed at every level of our society – from the very top.
Fathers at the centre of ending GBV
By Allison Cooper
“GBV is disturbing and disgusting. I always talk about raising a boy child well because they will have problems in the future if they are not raised properly. This is why we have aggressive men today,” says Sekgale.
“Fatherhood should be taken seriously and fathers should mentor their boy children to learn to talk about their feelings instead of acting them out. Boy children should not be taught to be strong and ‘never cry’, like most African cultures encourage, as they bottle up their anger and only show it later when they feel powerful,” he adds.
According to Sekgale, gender roles in families should be blended and no gender should be superior to the other.
“Families should teach their children to speak up about these issues and not tolerate any level of abuse, even if it seems small. Some people, because of their family backgrounds, don’t see anything wrong with GBV because they are used to living with it and have normalised it. It is very wrong and these people need to be helped.”
WHAT'S THE WORD?
We hear these phrases often, but it might not always be clear what GBV, VAW and IPV mean.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS...
This video shows the impact that absent or abusive fathers have, particularly on women, and encourages us to see how we can stop the cycle of gender-based violence by helping men to be positively and actively present in children's lives.