Fatherhood groups poised to kick off

The MenCare campaign, launched on 8 August 2011 in Soweto, has just celebrated its first South African birthday. The first year focused on two dimensions: shifting social norms through media such as radio and print, and establishing relationships with policymakers for advocacy and lobbying. The new year was entered by adding the third dimension of community mobilisation to the policy and media work.

Sonke Gender Justice and Men for Gender Equality (MfJ) Sweden completed their first training with South African organisations, training facilitators who will conduct fathers’ groups in the country. The training was the beginning of a programme that has implementation partners in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Sweden. MfJ and Sonke have entered into a partnership driven collaboration contract, or PDC to conduct this work as a part of the wider fatherhood programmes that both organisations implement.

The method the facilitators will use is derived from work that MfJ have conducted in Sweden and Eastern Europe, including the ‘Father Schools’ from Russia. It consists of five focused meetings with expectant or new fathers that open a space for the fathers to discuss their new roles as parents. The goal is promote and support gender equitable parenting in the households of these fathers. Some of the topics addressed in the meetings include preparation for childbirth, infant care and gender equality between parents. Participants are also given homework that they do with their partner.

The facilitators that were trained are male and female, and all of them are parents. One of the facilitators called Monde, a father of seven children, shared that it was the first time that he had considered the ways in which parenting could support gender equality. After he had done a homework exercise with his partner, she insisted that he continue with the course and complete it!

Three organisations working around the Cape Town area joined the training, and the facilitators from these organisations will start new groups in different sites across Cape Town and the province. This is done in collaboration with the local provincial and district social services and health authorities, which will refer expectant or existing fathers to join the groups.