We know that, right? i mean it’s not a statement that needs to be proven or argued for or defended? It’s one of those undeniable truths.
And yet, the reality in South Africa, is that in too many households, this does not seem like the case, simply because fathers are not there.
In so many cases the father is physically absent for a variety of reasons – men not taking responsibility for women they have impregnated, men who have to travel or live in a different city for work, men who are married to someone else, men who have died…
But add to that men who might be physically present, but absent in other ways – emotionally detached, struggling with addiction, abusive in a variety of ways…
This is true in many places around the world, but particularly evident in South Africa where we have a huge vacuum where present, active, loving fathers need to be.
The connection between this and the high levels of gender-based violence in our country is evident and for the most part feels quite overwhelming. What are we to do?
It’s time to man up
i have some exciting news!
Heartlines is the values-based organisation that i work for part-time as the Western Cape regional representative. Through a combination of story-telling and resource sharing, we seek to assist groups of people to do the much-needed work in and around their communities:
Heartlines is a South African-based NGO that aims to be part of addressing some of the issues facing society by helping move people from professed positive values to lived values.
Much of what is wrong in society is the result of the values we profess and the values we live, be it family breakdown, corruption, fraud, poor productivity or environmental degradation. We exist to try and be part of the solution to change that.
We have a programme that deals with talking about race and the differences and similarities between people and how we can use both of those to strengthen us collectively [What’s Your Story? with the tagline: You know my name, but do you know my story!]; we have a programme that looks at the connection between Values and Money [Values and Money, where the values we focus on are: Honesty in Earning, Responsibility in Spending, Wisdom in Borrowing, Self-control in Saving, and Generosity in Giving]
We also have a new programme, called Fathers Matter, which is hitting the ground running.
On Saturday September the 17th SABC2 will be screening the first of six short movies we are busy filming [around 30 minutes each] that will deal with the six core values of our Fathers Matter programme. We hope that you will have gathered a group around you, watch the movie together, and then take part in a discussion with the freely available workbooks we will be distributing.
The hope is to get a few million people all around the country sitting down together and reflecting on the importance of fathers being active, present and involved. Following that, we have an opportunity for six week Connect groups where men come together to learn together and encourage each other and be support for what is not an easy job at times, especially in the context of South Africa.
As someone who doesn’t have children, i might feel excluded from this conversation. But Heartlines speaks about the concept of Social Fathers, which i love. As a youth leader, teacher and mentor in various spaces and capacities, i have always had many opportunities to mentor, teach, listen and be present for a variety of young people. But anyone who is not a biological or adoptive father has an opportunity to either stand alongside fathers you know in support and community, or else to step into the gap where fathers are not present and be an active part of the solution.
Imagine if every man in South Africa decided today to step in to actively help enure the well-being, learning and safety of every young person in the country…
Let’s be honest, the situation in our country feels overwhelming and it’s hard to believe things can change.
But what if they did? It really would take a concerted effort to make it happen. But the more people we can get gathered together around these movies and conversations and then committing to a few weeks of meeting together to go deeper, the bigger our chances are.
We were in a staff meeting the other day for Heartlines, and Brian Helsby, my colleague and former bossman posited the ‘What If?’ question. Which you never really believe, even if you are a positive person. Simply because of the immense gravity of the situation. But hearing it out loud and knowing there is a practical opportunity for something to happen, really got me starting to believe that this is an opportunity to really start to shift the narrative.
So what can YOU do? Share this blog post for starters, on your social medias, in your Whatsapp groups. Even if you don’t share the actual piece, then tell some people you know about the initiative. Visit the website over here and start engaging with the FREE resources already on offer and sign up so that you can be informed when the discussion booklets are available. If you’re part of a church then connect us with your pastor and get them on board as a Fathers Matter Church [one committed to inviting men to engage around this topic and providing opportunities to do so]. Stick 17th of September into your diary and start planning who you will invite to watch it with you and discuss. This programme is not exclusively for men as we obviously need to hear women’s voices in this as they are often the ones doing all or the majority of the work of raising the children. But above all, start to ask the question “What If?” and start to speak yourself into believing that this can and might actually happen.
Let’s all work together to bring about a lived out experience of the truth that Fathers Matters that spreads across the country and even further into the world.
To hear some more about Fathers Matter, take some time to listen to this Bonus Podcast episode from Out of the Fishbowl!
For more information you can drop me an email at email@example.com