Fighting GBV: More fences, fewer ambulances

The scourge of gender-based violence (GBV) continues unabated. And while  there are interventions, many of them focus on providing assistance after the fact, rather than addressing root causes.

If you were to explain it using an analogy, imagine a cliff top with no fence: a dangerous drop with nothing to stop those who wander too far from falling. Inevitably, falls occur frequently. So much so that there’s always an ambulance on standby. Isn’t it time that we paid more attention to putting up a fence?

When thinking of this proverbial fence in the context of GBV prevention, there are a number of preventative measures – strands of fencing – that can be put in place. Research suggests the involvement of a positively present father (biological or social) in the home may be one of these.

Research by Dr Yandisa Sikweyiya of the South African Medical Research Council has pointed to the link between GBV and father absence in the home. In the case of boys/men, where fathers are absent, there is “mounting evidence” that there’s a higher likelihood of the perpetrator not having grown up in the same home as his father, having had a poor relationship with his father or not having known his father at all. In the case of girls/women, studies show that where their father was absent, they are more likely to enter into violent sexual relationships.

Furthermore, according to Wessel van den Berg, MenCare Officer at Equimundo, the nature of a father’s involvement in the home plays a critical role. There is evidence that where children witness violence in the home against their mother, they too may perpetuate this cycle – either as perpetrators or victims. Conversely, where fathers are a positive presence who play an “active and equal role” in the home, violence is less likely to occur.

So what’s the solution? As Craig Wilkinson, founder of Father a Nation, points out: “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.

Fathers Matter exists for this purpose. Our aim is to build awareness and create a national conversation about why fathers matter in the lives of children – starting at birth. We also work to create a supportive environment and share resources for organisations and churches to use to promote positive fatherhood in various contexts including churches, NGOs, sports and recreational clubs and the early learning (ECD) sector.

So if you’d like to join the movement, download Fathers Matter resources today or get in touch with us for guidance. We would love to hear from you.

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