Fathers play a critical role in their children’s lives. Children who grow up without present and engaged fathers or father figures can be negatively affected. They may be more vulnerable to negative life consequences, such as perpetuating violence or being victims of it, substance abuse, or mental health issues. However, globally and in SA, there is a lack of awareness and understanding of how important it is for fathers to be positively present and involved with their children.
According to Stats SA’s Children’s Education and Wellbeing in SA report based on data from 2018, 63.6% of children do not live with their father in the same household.
Heartlines, a not-for-profit company that develops values-based interventions supporting social and behavioural change, has recently conducted research into fatherhood in SA. Through academic research, interviews, and focus group discussions, Heartlines set out to explore attitudes, beliefs and practices about fathering, identify barriers to father involvement in children’s lives, and understand the impact of their absence and presence.
Heartlines’ research showed that though many South Africans identified a man’s ability to provide for his family as the critical entry point to fatherhood, they also expressed yearnings for greater connection and care from their fathers that went beyond mere financial support.
Heartlines describes how fathers often struggle with the balance of adhering to masculinity norms while being emotionally available and nurturing towards their children. The active presence of a father figure who embodies positive masculinity is particularly beneficial to male children. Not only does this provide young boys with positive role models, but it can also help develop a healthy sense of masculinity that encompasses nurture and care.
As one research participant says: “When you start playing with your children, culture will say, ‘This one is not man enough, he’s busy with children' and at that time you’re trying to be around your children ... culture has a way of suppressing you by making you feel inferior as a man in the community.”
Heartlines has launched its ‘Fathers Matter’ campaign, and to get young people more engaged with the issue of fatherhood it joined forces with FunDza Literacy Trust to collaborate on an exciting essay writing competition.
FunDza is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to getting young people reading, writing, and learning. FunDza’s online site commissions and publishes relatable and appealing local content, and also publishes young people’s work.
Every day there are about 15,000 readers who spend time reading original stories, blogs, and poems on the platform that is zero-rated by all mobile networks, so completely free for anyone to access.
“We are delighted to be working with Heartlines,” says FunDza’s director Mignon Hardie. “We have always admired their work, and we share with them a belief in the power of story.”
MY FATHER ESSAY WRITING COMPETITION
The My Father Essay Writing competition is open to young people between the ages of 13 and 30. Entrants are invited to describe what the word ‘father’ means to them in a personal way, drawing on their own experiences and reflections. The essays should be between 450 and 550 words.
The competition runs from June 3 to 30 June 2021.
Winners in three age categories (Junior – 13 to 17 years; Intermediate – 18 to 23 years; and Senior – 24 to 30 years) will each receive R1,500 cash prizes, and two runners-up in each age category will receive R750 and a goodie bag of prizes.
To find out more about the My Father Essay Writing Competition visit www.fundza.mobi.