At the end of September, Heartlines Fathers Matter hosted a stakeholder networking event at the Southern Sun Sandton, in Johannesburg, as part of our work to connect organisations that support positive fatherhood in South Africa. Twenty-three organisations joined us as we hosted, actor, director and founder of the Fatherhood Foundation of South Africa, Zane Meas as a keynote speaker to elaborate on the state of fatherhood in our country.
According to Meas, “Fathers are the root, the stone pillars and anchors of their families and communities.” Even though we are faced with the grim reality of the prevalence of fatherlessness, which Meas described as “a pandemic far greater than COVID-19, because men are in a state of confusion and they are addressing their frustrations by asserting their dominance and physically abusing women and children,” several attendees affirmed how encouraging it was to see how many people are working to change the story of fatherhood in South Africa.
Martin Pelders, the founder of Matrixmen, added that he has personally experienced how growing up in a context of violence and abuse had a negative impact on his fathering journey until he dealt with his history. He explained that before his healing journey, which began in 2011, he “used to transfer his feeling of pain, anxiety and constant anxiousness on his daughter". It was only after she came back into his life six years ago that he finally felt seen and recognised because he got the opportunity to tell his side of the story.
Also sharing her story about her relationship with her father was Zamabongo Mojalefa, recently appointed as Project Manager for Fathers Matter. “I grew up learning how a woman should be treated by the many social fathers who played an important role in my life,” she shared. “Healed people heal people. For those of us working in the fatherhood space I urge you to prioritise your own healing journey.”
As we came to the end of the stakeholders meeting, those in attendance agreed that although a “perfect father” does not exist and sometimes a father’s best intentions can still end in disaster, as Erika Jooste from Takalani Sesame ECD put it, “dads need to let go of the notion of being super dads. They don’t need to do everything.”
The event comprised diverse voices of men and women working in a variety of roles, from researchers to authors, TV producers, podcasters, mentors and social workers – all passionate about restoring positive fatherhood in country from different disciplines. And all of whom were challenged to continue collaborating so that we change how fatherhood is perceived in South Africa.
Closing off his address Meas said that “for a long time men were alienated and we forgot to give them their own voice, identity and position in the home. So as a society we need to start telling men that it is okay to be a man and a hero to your own family.”
Bonolo is a multimedia journalist and content creator at Heartlines. She has experience in online and radio media production and helps spread the Heartlines message on multiple platforms.
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