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Early Childhood Matters

the bulletin of the Bernard van Leer Foundation FEBRUARY 2001 NO.97

Fathers matter too

Early Childhood Matters is published three
times a year in February, June and October,
by the
Bernard van Leer Foundation
PO Box 82334, 2508 EH
The Hague, The Netherlands
Tel: +31 (0)70 351 2040
Fax: +31 (0)70 350 2373
email: registry@bvleerf.nl

Series Editor: Jim Smale

Design & Production: Homemade Cookies Graphic Design bv

Work featured in Early Childhood Matters is not

necessarily funded by the Bernard van Leer Foundation.
The views expressed are those of the individual
authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation.

Material from Early Childhood Matters may be

reproduced or adapted without permission, provided
it is not distributed for profit. It must be attributed to
. Contents
the original author(s), Early Childhood Matters and
the Bernard van Leer Foundation.
Fathers matter too 3
If you are interested in contributing to Early Childhood Jim Smale
Matters, please contact the Editor for a preliminary
The changing roles of fathers 7
discussion and to obtain a copy of our ‘Guide for Authors’.
Contributions must be related to early childhood Wim Monasso
development and should draw on direct practical experience Fathers participation: observations and reflections from a programme
with young children, their families and communities.
with Ethiopian immigrants in Israel 10
Please note that the Foundation does not pay for
contributions because Early Childhood Matters is generally Father’s money, mother’s money, and parental commitment 16
distributed free of charge. Please also note that we allow free Patrice L Engle
copying for non-commercial purposes.
Involving fathers in community-based early childhood programmes:
ISSN 1387-9553 a report from Israel and the Palestinian Autonomous Region 18
Farid Abu Gosh
Cover: South Africa: Eating mielies

photo: Rob Pollock, Early Learning Resource Unit (ELRU) Men in Families: exploring the impact of men and reproductive health
and choices in Mexico 22
Inside front cover: Belgium: Maman, papa - making words on
Redefining fatherhood: a report from the Caribbean 25
the felt board
photo: Mons project
Janet Brown and Barry Chevannes
_____________________________________________________________ The father in San culture: oral histories from Botswana and Namibia 38
As well as Early Childhood Matters the Foundation produces
Willemien le Roux
a wide range of publications about early childhood
development. All are available – free of charge for single
Helping fathers find their roles: an exercise from Southern Africa 46
copies – to organisations or individuals interested in this Margaret Irvine
field. A publications list is also available: please contact the
Foundation at the addresses above and on the back cover.
Fathers matter too
“ Parents have joint primary
responsibility for raising the
child, and the State shall
• fathers have always been involved
with their children. An overview of
the research shows us that at any
time over the past 40 years when
bond as easily with their fathers as with
their mothers. A parent’s gender is far
less important in affecting child
development than broader qualities as a
draws out the key issues in fathering
and discusses how these are understood
and acted on. Third it offers a survey
of what is being done, strategically and
fathers’ activities have been parent, such as warmth and kindness. via direct work, to support fathers as
support them in this. The best
measured, some men have always Fathers themselves also reported that they move towards the parenting roles
interests of the child will be been reported as highly involved. ‘being with their children is the most that they, and their families, cultures
their basic concern • They are sensitive and responsive to fulfilling part of their lives’. and societies determine that they

(The Convention on the Rights of the Child)
their young children.
• Most fathers say they enjoy having
close relationships with their
This survey may have been conducted
in the United Kingdom, but its findings
reflect what is widely accepted
should have.

Building on what has been achieved

Over the years, the Foundation has • They provide vital practical support elsewhere: that when men fail to engage Although the need for work with
chosen to support work with families as around the time of birth, and many with their children, it is not something fathers is coming more sharply into
one of the main strategies for state that they feel deeply moved by that is inherent in the fact of being male focus now, considerable efforts have
enhancing young children’s the experience of childbirth. – although, as some of the articles in already been made. Some of these are
development. However, in the majority • They are often the main carers for this edition show – it may well be outlined in the first article ‘The
of the approaches being developed, children while mothers are working. something that is inherent in changing roles of fathers’ (page 7) of
‘families’ stands for ‘mothers’. This is In 36 percent of dual earner families perceptions and understandings of this edition, and some – along with
despite an increasing recognition, it is the father, more than any other manhood. others – are discussed in more detail in
worldwide, of the need to support the individual, who cares for children. the remaining articles. The Foundation
role of fathers within the family, • Many fathers assume the major Against this background, this edition of itself has supported a range of
and in particular in relation to parenting role when the need arises. Early Childhood Matters serves three initiatives with fathers since the mid
children’s development. And it is purposes. First, it offers an overview of nineteen eighties. These include work
despite clear evidence that men want to The same survey also confirmed that it the state of play on work with fathers, in: Zimbabwe; the Caribbean (see page
be engaged with their children – and is beneficial to the young child to be tracing how and why fathering has 25); the Middle East/North Africa
indeed, as a recent survey 1 confirmed, raised by more than one carer; and emerged as a key focus for effective region; South Africa; the ; Ireland;
often are engaged: went on to point out that babies usually work with young children. Second, it the United Kingdom; East Jerusalem,

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 3 Early Childhood Matters

fatherhood was sometimes develop their own understandings implications for families and the roles
used: ideals were set up, about what is best for their children – and functions of fathers. Typical issues
fathers were measured against and for the fathers themselves. for Western fathers and families have
these, and work centred on included: work time versus parenting
bringing them into line. Now A second recurring issue is in some time; changing patterns of work for
there is acceptance that senses linked to the first: the difficulty men and women and their impact on
fatherhood can properly have of engaging men – young children are parenting roles; and the rights of
a range of expressions, any of often seen as the responsibility of fathers, particularly after family break-
which can be right for women, not men. One root cause of up. These issues are not exclusive to the
children, the fathers this may be gender stereotyping that rich societies in which they arise, but
themselves and their families, children become aware of early in their the approaches to work around them
in their own contexts. lives, perhaps because of the ways in certainly reflect the vastly greater
which gender roles are modelled for resources that can be brought to bear in
On the other hand, some them. If that is the case, then one resource-rich countries. Work has
Namibia: Father and child issues that can be found in response is to counter it early. An therefore included the development of
photo: Erongo Pro Child project many settings have remained example of how to approach this is substantial national organisations for
constant. One such is that the provided by What is a girl? What is a fathers such as ‘Fathers Plus’ in the
Israel and the Palestinian Autonomous concept of manhood as established and boy?, a practical booklet that includes United Kingdom. These organisations
Region (see page 18); Peru; Australia; lived by the men, and as generally examples of gender stereotyping that also network internationally with their
Venezuela; The Netherlands and India. accepted in their cultures, is at odds children may already know. Using brother organisations and they are able
with men’s roles as fathers. A response pointed and attractive illustrations, to support major international
Surveying these programmes in to this that evolved during the 1990s children are encouraged to discuss the conferences around fathering themes.
conjunction with the articles in this involves working towards a redefinition examples and link them to their own Smaller scale initiatives have included:
edition of Early Childhood Matters of manhood that includes fathering – experiences. As they do so, they an informal meeting space for fathers to
reveals some clear lines of development and specifically loving and caring (see recognise them as false.2 exchange parenting experiences with
or evolution in the ways in which page 25). Linked to this is the more peers; groups of first-time fathers
fatherhood is understood. A number of general need to acknowledge cultural Western and non-Western perspectives exchanging their experiences over coffee
issues that frequently arise in work on norms and practices. Programmes have on their daily early morning commuter
fathering stand out; and shifts in the moved away from challenging cultural Two parallel lines of work around train; playgroups run by fathers; and
ways in which work with fathers is patterns to taking them as starting fatherhood can also be seen. One antenatal classes for expectant fathers
understood and practised are obvious. points to be considered and reflected follows certain ‘Western’ social and and their pregnant partners.
For example, a deficit model of on. The point is to ensure that fathers economic patterns of change, and their

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 4 Early Childhood Matters

The second line of work runs through underpins and reinforces direct work
‘non-Western’ ethnic or cultural groups. (see page 12) a lot more needs to be
The issues that have arisen include done: too many fathers, across many
sustaining examples of good traditional different settings, are clearly not
fathering practices in the face of factors fulfilling their fathering roles as well as
such as encroaching economic and their children – and indeed they
social pressures; and what to do about themselves – need.
examples of bad practice. The work of
projects supported by the Foundation Work in progress
ranges from helping migrant fathers to
define their parenting roles in their new Work with fathers is itself a work in
settings in The Netherlands, to progress: there is a very long way to go.
exploring the practical implications of And this collection of materials on
perceptions of fatherhood among rural fathering is also a work in progress – as Caribbean: Boys greet each other with clenched fists and back slaps
Quechua-speaking families in Peru. In has often been the case for Early From: Why Man Stay So - Tie the Heifer, Loose the Bull; University of West Indies

the latter, fathering is taken to include Childhood Matters. We have gathered

males loving and caring, and fostering, information and surveyed relevant indigenous fathers that is being changes? If you would like to contribute
nurturing and teaching. In some senses, literature from a wide variety of inadvertently lost, often through your experiences I very much look
the work of the Karnataka-based sources. But a major limitation we have ‘Westernisation’. forward to reading them.
reproductive health project ‘A Sense of faced is that the available information is
Rhythm’ parallels this. The project is dominated by the perspectives of The next edition of Early Childhood Jim Smale
being implemented by the Family industrialised nations – largely Matters will consider the impact of the Editor
Planning Association of India in ‘Western’. This reflects a continuing Convention on the Rights of the Child
conjunction with the University of concern: that indigenous knowledge on programming in early childhood
Groningen, The Netherlands; and is and experiences are not sufficiently development. It is being prepared for notes
undertaking action research cum available; and that, when they are, they the United Nations Special Session on 1. Lewis C (in press) What good are dads?
programme planning on men’s are often filtered and interpreted by Children that will be held in September 2. More details about What is a girl? What is a boy?
perceptions of fatherhood. non-indigenous researchers. A much of this year. Topics to be addressed by Kamla Bhasin are available from: Jagori, C-54
better balance is needed, not least include: how much notice have  South Extension, Phase 11, New Delhi 110 049, India;
However, none of this should imply because – as some of the articles programmers taken of the Convention? http://web.tiscalinet.it/WIN/039b.html
that enough is being done. Even taking demonstrate – there is a wealth of good How has programming changed as a
into account the strategic work that attitudes and practices among result? What are the outcomes of these

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 5 Early Childhood Matters

USA: Father and child
photo: High/Scope home visiting project
The changing roles of fathers
Wim Monasso, Programme Specialist, Bernard van Leer Foundation

Fathers are a vitally important resource to children and families on a huge number of levels. When
that resource is missing or is underused, children and families are greatly disadvantaged1.
This article is drawn from an in-house discussion paper of the Bernard van Leer Foundation. It is
exploratory: designed to identify the issues that will help us to determine the Foundation’s approaches
to fathering and fatherhood.

The history of fatherhood cautions us always for the better: that fatherhood to understand the complementarity changes in the labour market that have
to expect change in the roles men play falls short of what young children need of roles within the family. In order to placed increased stress on families; and
in relation to their children. More and if they are to thrive, and often falls develop an understanding of that this has impacted on men’s and
newer models – even ideals – of short of what fathers themselves would complementarity, however, it is women’s roles within the family, a
fatherhood, will emerge as economies like it to be. important to take a closer look at men’s cornerstone of which is childcare. Thus
and cultures, and the nature, structure, roles. From the Foundation’s it is now critical to find ways to support
dynamics and environments of families, Why is there an interest in these issues perspective, there is an even more men taking on expanded roles in
all continue to evolve and shift. For now? One starting point was the specific focus: men as fathers, and their relation to children. It is also important
example, there is an accumulation of Women and Development movement roles in supporting young children’s to reinforce roles that men already play.
evidence in the Western world that that, in the 1980s, highlighted the ways development. In many traditional cultures, men have
indicates that paternal involvement in in which women supported families. always been essential partners in
the lives of children has increased over This evolved and, in the 1990s, began But roles have to be considered in childcare, and often have very clearly
the last three decades, both in to focus on the ways in which an context and part of this context is set by defined roles, based on the age of the
proportional and in absolute terms. understanding of gender issues in the economic factors that, worldwide, child. The Foundation’s idea in
There is also substantial evidence that, development brought men into the threaten the ability of families to supporting project partners around
for a variety of reasons, change is not picture as well. There was an attempt survive. There have been enormous issues of fatherhood, is to find ways to

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 7 Early Childhood Matters

process of human fathering. This To compound this, industrialisation
means that, when relating to a given meant that the home became more
father, we relate to our expectations of mother-centred, and the division of
him. These can be strong or weak, labour between women and men more
‘castrating’ or facilitating, depending clear cut. Modernisation has taken this
on how he does or does not fit in with further: fathers and other earners may
these expectations. be away from home for the whole of the
working day whereas the world of the
A most striking fact to be gleaned from family was once also the father’s world
the study of fathers and fatherhood is of work. This separation of the worker
the centrality of the image of the from his family has been widely
authoritarian father to moral and regarded as a calamity.
political debate in the West over many
Australia: How children see their fathers centuries. While the behaviour of

From Fitting fathers into families: men and fatherhood in contemporary Australia; CDFCS fathers is and has always been
immensely varied, paternal imagery has I’m very protective of him
reinforce rather than undermine these transmitted diseases, including  and been selective and limited; a main effect because he’s so vulnerable (a)
roles – perhaps especially as cultures are
undergoing change.

Furthermore, with men now

 – is considered to be a woman’s
concern. ‘Real men’ do not concern
themselves with this, although their
gender has given them more
of this has been to veil other kinds of
interaction between men and their
Understanding fatherhood

acknowledged in gender, population opportunities to inform themselves – A review of father's images in art and
and reproductive health studies – and for example, by giving them more text illustrates an ongoing campaign Fathers today are by no means a
following the World Conference on chances to become literate. over the last 400 years of promoting an homogenous group: they range from
Population and Development in Cairo extremely limited range of fathering those who produce sperm but have no
(1994) – there has been an increased An historical perspective on behaviours, that does not include contact with their offspring, through to
interest in defining men’s roles in fatherhood involvement or empathy with infants. It those who take sole charge of their
sexuality, reproductive behaviour and is as if men have been urged to keep at children. One current problem in
family dynamics. One issue that has It is clear that no father creates his an emotional and physical distance understanding fatherhood is that
emerged is that reproductive health – fatherhood in isolation: whatever he from infants so that they will be cut off research suggests that much of
everything related to contraception, does is measured against images which from their most tender feelings – and contemporary scholarship on fathers –
pregnancy, childbirth and sexually simultaneously amplify and dwarf the thus alienated from themselves. notably in the  – comes from a

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 8 Early Childhood Matters

deficit model that focuses on men’s understanding of fatherhood that is
inadequacies as parents. They are centred on who men really are, what
labelled as having failed historically to aspirations they have as fathers, and
adapt to changing social circumstances their own potential to change
and realities, as not being involved in themselves. It must also acknowledge
caring for children, and as having little and respond to realities such as socio-
or no interest in changing. economic factors, the balance between
home-life and work, and cultural
This image is reinforced in the media of norms, all of which impact on men as
Western countries, and appears to be they strive to be good fathers.
unrelentingly negative, which
presumably undermines fathers’ Women’s lives are usually described in
confidence. For instance in the case of terms of motherhood, while men are
Australia, a national audit on usually characterised as heads of their Australia: How children see their fathers
fatherhood found, most strikingly, that household or wage earners: men’s value From Fitting fathers into families: men and fatherhood in contemporary Australia; CDFCS

fathers felt they had limited competence as intimate fathers tends to be passed
in their role as dads, whereas their over. Yet, men’s commitment to their is still seen as belonging to the mother. the labour market is more subtle than
partners rated them pretty highly. One children is key to the quality of family This can be linked to the reality that, in that and is also shifting: currently there
of the conclusions was that fathers are life and the prospects of the next many parts of the world, fathers are not are many examples of increased levels
doing better than they think or are led generation. living full time with their children. of unemployment for men and
to believe. Some examples of female-headed increased levels of maternal
The family structure of mothers as households in a variety of countries are: employment. In addition, the absence
Fortunately this negative ‘deficit’ caregivers and fathers as income earners Botswana 45 percent, Malawi 29 of the father needs to be looked at in
approach is currently being criticised has become, to a large extent, a myth, percent, Jamaica 42 percent, Peru 23 terms of cultural as well as economic
because it is not very useful as a starting although still upheld by many aspects percent, Thailand 22 percent.2 However, factors. (see ‘Redefining manhood’ on
point for helping fathers to improve of social and economic policy. On the the lack of a resident partner is a much page 25)
their fathering. What is needed is an domestic front, while women have more significant variable if the potential
taken on an increasing role in for fathers’ involvement in their Three indicators which are consistently
providing income to their families, men children’s lives is considered. used to measure people’s ‘success’ in

“ When she smiles, I just melt (a)

have not taken up their share of
responsibility in family life:
responsibility for children, in particular,
One key reason for this separation is the
need to move away to earn money. But
later life are: moving up in society;
fulfilment of potential; and capacity to
form and maintain rewarding

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 9 Early Childhood Matters

The changing roles of fathers

Fathers’ participation:
observations and reflections

from a programme with Ethiopian immigrants in Israel

These observations and reflections were collected by the Association for the Advancement of the Ethiopian Child and Family in Israel (), as part of its
work within the Effectiveness Initiative. More information about  can be found at http://www.almaya.org.il/content/about/almaya.htm. More
information about the Effectiveness Initiative can be found in Early Childhood Matters 96, October 2000. Single copies are available free on request from the
Foundation at the addresses shown on the back cover.

These are some of the points that The mothers described this as an will remain unaware of the importance A paraprofessional home visitor also
emerged from a focus group interview unhealthy situation. In their opinion, of education in Israel. In Ethiopia the reflected on the non-participation
with mothers who participated in the this type of situation pushes away the men were responsible for the children's of fathers:
programme. connection between the father and child education.
and only strengthens the connection It's a pity that fathers didn't
The mothers stressed the need to find a between mothers and children. The These are some of the direct reflections participate in the programme; the
framework to incorporate the men, mothers are worried (not for themselves of mothers. fathers needed the programme, in
arguing that, as long as the men are not particularly, but in general) that a order that the child should feel
in the picture and do not participate in situation will develop where the father Develop an appropriate programme supported by both parents and in
the programme, the programme will be will feel himself ‘an outsider’ and the for the men if you wish the Home order for him to establish better
incomplete. respect that the child has for the father, Visiting Programme to be complete. relations with both parents.
will diminish. Violence between father Furthermore, if the father is not in
Sometimes the men are destructive and child may result. The Home Visiting Programme is a the picture, the child treats him with
towards the Home Visiting Programme good example of how to strengthen the less respect. The father is unable to
if they are not partners and aware of its Conflicts between the husband and wife children in their studies and the appreciate the importance of
importance. The mothers reported an may also develop about the type of connection between the children and schooling in the way the mother is.
example that occurred of a child who education that is right for their their mothers. There is a very positive relationship
asked his father to explain to him some children. The man may feel that the between the mother and the child,
games or some other learning activity. It child and the mother are united against If fathers participate, the connection and this can lead to conflict between
was difficult for the father to explain to him. In addition, as long as there is no between the children and their parents wife and husband for they will have
his child. In many cases the father told specific aspect of the programme that would be complete. different views on how the child
his child to ask the mother and not him. deals with the men's needs, the men should be raised. "

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 10 Early Childhood Matters

relationships. Parents’ own success in
these terms provides role models and
examples for their children, and can
therefore be an important success
opportunities to provide sustained and
effective parenting.

The significance of culture

their time they are within arm’s
reach of their infants, they may
hold the child close to their bodies
for up to two (daylight) hours and
“ My father fed me my first mango.
He taught me to play games.
He carried me out often (b)
factor for their children. This may be often comfort the baby at night, (Dhira-Mae)
critically important in areas such as the
economic and social well-being of
children, but has nothing to do with
the quality of parental involvement in
Whereas economic and other factors
influence the amount of time fathers
spend with their children, cultural
factors may have the biggest impact. For
singing softly. They clean the
babies, wipe their bottoms, even
offer their own nipples for a
soothing temporary suck, if the

the development of children. Yet, if example, in many societies, limited mothers are not around. Aka babies (Belgium, China, Finland, Germany,
both are important, then the question participation in childcare of fathers is seek out their fathers, while the women Hong Kong, Italy, Nigeria, Poland,
is not whether involvement with linked very strongly to beliefs that close prepare the evening meal or sit idle, Spain, Thailand, and the ). It
children is better than the success of father-child relations are not chatting; and, more like a Western concluded that, on average, even
the family and its members as appropriate. This conflicts with widely mother, the father takes his cues from children in two parent families spent
measured by the above indicators, but expressed views from other cultures and his baby. Aka fathers respond, no less about 11 waking hours a day in their
how the two can best be balanced. societies that fathers should be than Western fathers do, to the culture mothers’ care, one hour with both
encouraged to become significantly and environment in which they find parents, and just 42 minutes in their
Available evidence suggests that the involved in the lives of their children. themselves. The difference is that the fathers’ care.4
more men and women cooperate What then is known about cross- Aka culture and environment produce
economically, the more equally they cultural differences, the impact of fathers who are heavily involved in the Studies from India, Barbados and the
tend to divide childcare responsibilities. different religious beliefs, and care of their children; Western cultures Caribbean add to the picture
Whether or not the father lives with his differences across cultures in and environments commonly produce
children, the quality of his relationship paternal behaviour? the opposite. - India: ‘The Girl Child and the
with their mother is also influential. In Family’ study 5 (1994) concluded that
many cases, rewarding and sustained Most gripping among modern studies is Clearly there is not one ‘right way’ to the role of the father in sharing
contact between fathers and their one that was carried out during the father. But there is a variety of cultural activities with his daughter is so
children diminishes dramatically soon 1980’s of the Aka Pygmies in Congo’s dimensions that determine the marginal that it reflects one of the
after a break up when mothers have tropical rainforest.3 The fathers of this effectiveness of the roles that fathers great tragedies of Indian family life.
custody, although very few fathers lose tribe proved to be the ‘stars’ of paternal play in relation to their children. A In various enclaves around India
touch with their children altogether. involvement, doing more infant cross-cultural study by the High/Scope where gender discrimination is
Fathers who were never married to the caregiving than fathers in any other Foundation in the  (1995), pronounced, one finds it echoed in
mother, generally have even fewer known society. Forty seven percent of examined four year olds in 11 countries local phrases such as ‘bringing up a

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 11 Early Childhood Matters

“ My father works.
He helps me with my school work,
my maths and reading.
- Caribbean: Research in 1992 7 on Conclusions fathering is long term, and starts early –
I ask him plenty questions. rural and urban low-income for example, with young boys and girls,
My dad always answers questions. working class men, in relation to In summary, it is clear that the roles of to counter sexual stereotyping.
their mating and family life fathers are changing, and changing in
My dad teaches me how to behave (b)
patterns, brought out different different ways, in different contexts, for In the development and support of
(Dhana, aged 5) definitions of a man’s family at different reasons. Unhappily, some of these approaches, sophisticated

girl child is like watering a

neighbour’s plant’. However, a father
different points in his life. These
included family responsibilities to
parents, his siblings and their
children, his baby’s mother, his
these changes are detrimental to the
well-being of their children – and
indeed, to the fathers’ own well-being.
In response, successful policies,
qualitative and ethnographic research is
needed. This must focus on the internal
dynamics of families, and especially on
parental relationships that relate to how
may take a special interest in the ‘outside’ children (children from programmes and services have been decisions about childrearing are made.
upbringing of sons. The tasks of previous relationships), and acknowledging the complexities and There is a need too, for data in areas
providing for food, education and children he may now reside with. contextual realities of change: they such as the aspirations of fathers and
marriage are in a sense the economic While both men and women stated recognise that generalised policies and the barriers to these.
duties of the father, but beyond what that a good father should provide programmes are unlikely to succeed.
is the basic minimum, the father financially for the family, both Instead, contextually appropriate, Underpinning this work in a strategic
steps out of the scene, surrendering expressed very low expectations in multi-dimensional approaches are way, the international donor
his socialisation role and losing the terms of fathers playing an active needed that encompass cultural norms; community has strongly supported
opportunity to develop emotional role in raising the children. Even so, the rights of all those involved; efforts to promote gender equality. For
closeness with his girl children. men and women experienced economic factors; social and family example, (I) and the
widespread confusion and issues and factors; and the question of (II)jointly support gender project
- Barbados: A 1994 study 6 showed that contradictions as they tried to live quality versus quantity in time spent training activities around the world,
eight year old children of adolescent out these expectations in a very with children. They also acknowledge and ,(III) ,(IV) ,(V) ,(VI)
mothers with good or on-going difficult socio-economic climate. A and respond to men’s potential for and (VII) have prepared guidelines
relationships with their fathers, tentative conclusion stressed the development across their life cycles; and and manuals on gender equality and
appear more likely to do better at need to encourage the trends to their internal desire to care for the sensitivity. For its part, the World
school and to have fewer behavioural towards defining manhood and next generation; and they build around Bank(VIII) is developing strategies and
problems. Factors emerging as fatherhood (and motherhood) in the fact that actively caring for one’s reviews of gender concerns in sectoral
significant were the level and the type broader terms that include children is not only developmentally programmes. Private foundations are
of the father’s involvement with his nurturing, the sharing of domestic important to the child, but also central playing an increasingly important role
child, rather than the amount of time tasks and the father’s part in to the father’s growth and well-being. In in supporting national programmes to
he spends interacting with the child. providing financially for the family. addition, the work to foster better promote reproductive health and

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 12 Early Childhood Matters

Netherlands: A visit to the children's farm
photo: Ufuk Koba; Dit ben ik workbook; Anne Frank Stichting

gender equality. The next logical step Some foundations have taken the lead balancing investments in a highly children. If we believe that good
for these organisations seems clear: a in advancing the cause of positive strategic manner between piloting, fathering is as important to the growing
focus on the role of men as fathers fatherhood, others have joined efforts as evaluation, research, institutional and and developing child as is good
building on such initiatives as donors to achieve maximum impact. network building, and advocacy for mothering, then a great deal more
reproductive health programmes. As For example, in the , the  20m policy change. effort has to be invested in helping
recent  projects in Mali, ‘Strengthening Fragile Families fathers to naturally fulfil their fathering
Nicaragua and India on gender Initiative’ of the Ford Foundation (ix) has But clearly nothing like enough is being roles. The United Nations International
sensitivity and reproductive health paid off both domestically and done: huge numbers of fathers, in a Year of the Family is in 2004. What
demonstrate, men’s behaviour can be internationally. One key factor here was very considerable range of settings, are better opportunity for advancing the
altered, provided they themselves are its long term and multi-dimensional not as central as they should be in the cause of good fatherhood? "
strongly involved. approach: seven years of forceful work, development environments of their

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 13 Early Childhood Matters

verbatim quotes additional sources
(a) Fitting fathers into families: men and fatherhood in 1. Cohen R (1992) ‘Where have all the fathers gone?’ in
contemporary Australia, a report published in 1999 by the Bernard van Leer Newsletter 65. Single copies are available
Commonwealth Department of Family and Community free on request from Foundation at the addresses shown on
Services, Canberra, Australia the back cover
(b) Child in Focus Newsletter 94;  Caribbean 2. ‘Men in the lives of Children’ in Coordinator’s Notebook,
(c) Kinderhulp number 18, February 2001; published by Issue 16; Consultative Group on Early Childhood Care and
National Fonds Kinderhulp; The Netherlands Development; New York, 
3. Hawkins AJ and Dollahite  (1997) Generative Fathering
notes – Beyond Deficit Perspectives; Sage Publications Inc;
1. Burgess A (1997) Fatherhood reclaimed – the making of the California, 
modern father; Institute for Public Policy Research; London, 4. Lamb  (1997) The Role of the Father in Child
United Kingdom Development; John Wiley and Sons Inc; New York, 
2. Bruce J (1991) Women do the caring, fathers do the earning? 5. Lewis C (in press) Fathers, Work and Family Life;
Policy implications of women’s changing roles; Population University of Lancaster Press; United Kingdom
Council; New York,  6. Russell G (1983) The Changing Role of Fathers; University
3. Hewlett J (1991) Intimate fathers: the nature and context of of Queensland Press; Australia
Aka Pigmy paternal infant care; University of Michigan Press,
 additional references
4. Olmsted PP and Weikart DP (1995) Families speak. Early . United Nations Development Fund for Women:
childhood care and education in 11 countries; High/Scope http://www.unifem.undp.org
Press; Ypsilanti,  . United Nations Population Fund: http://www.unfpa.org
5. Anandalakshmy S (1994) The girl child and the family: an . International Labour Organization: http://www.ilo.org
action research study sponsored by the Department of Women . : http://www.unicef.org
and Child Development, Ministry of Human Resources . United Nations Development Programme:
Development; Government of India, Madras http://www.undp.or.kr
6. Russell-Brown P, Engle P and Townsend J (1994) . World Health Organisation: http://www.who.int
The effects of early child-bearing on women’s status in . World Food Programme: http://www.wfp.org
Barbados; Population Council/The International Centre for . World Bank: http://www.worldbank.org
Research on Women, New York,  . Ford Foundation: http://www.fordfound.org
7. Brown J, Anderson P and Chevannes B (1992)
Contributions of Caribbean men to the family; report to 
Sri Lanka: Father playing with children and their play shop
photo: Sarath Perera for UNICEF

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 14 Early Childhood Matters

Israel and the Palestinian Autonomous Region: The Trust of Programmes for Early Childhood,
Family and Community Education
The changing roles of fathers

Father’s money, mother’s money,

and parental commitment
Patrice L Engle

This article results from the author’s work in reviewing a number of studies, carried out in a wide range of countries, that examined factors
determining fathers’ commitment to their children, and theories which could explain patterns of commitment. It is extracted from Patrice Engle’s
contribution to Wealth and Well-being by R Blumburg and others, and concentrates on ‘non-western’ countries and/or cultures. The original
article also contains a highly detailed summary of two studies, one in Nicaragua, the other in Guatemala. Wealth and Well-being was published by
the Westview Press in 1994. Further details about the book and other Westview Press publications can be obtained from Westview Press Inc, 5500
Central Avenue, Boulder,  80301, ; and http://www.westviewpress.com

Studies identify the following major Cultural factors are important; for and in male privilege and an increase in relationship with the children’s mother
factors that determine fathers’ example, in patrilineal ethnic groups of television viewing and a demand for is a ‘package deal’.4 Rising rates of
commitment to their children: Cameroon, it is acknowledged that the purchased goods, combined with rising divorce and children born out of
father’s role is one of providing his women’s labour force participation, wedlock are increasing dramatically the
• cultural norms in the society toward children with lineage connections; the have resulted in a rapid and dramatic number of children raised by single
the fathering role; economic ability mother’s responsibility is to provide alteration in the traditional mothers. The culture with the highest
of the father to support a family; food and economic support for both authoritarian male role in urban, lower- rate of father/infant interaction ever
• the nature or warmth of the father and children.2 He has little class families.3 The result has been reported (the Aka pygmies) appears to
father/mother relationship; and contact with young children. However, men’s flight from their responsibilities be based on a subsistence system which
individual psychological factors of the cultural ideal of non-involved for child and family support. requires husband and wife to cooperate
the men – the notion that only fathers is in rapid flux. Many countries and communicate in order to obtain by
mothers are biologically report emerging beliefs that fathers Lack of father responsibility has been hunting needed food.5
programmed to attend to their should be involved much more in child associated with poor income-earning
children has not received support; care and nurturing than previously, power in the United States, and in the A few programmes have attempted to
• a substantial body of literature although actual change is slow. rapidly urbanising areas of developing increase father responsibility, both
suggests that although fathers in countries. Father commitment has also among intact families and with non-
most cultures do not perform much Other economic and cultural changes been found to be associated with the resident families. Whereas the majority
child care, they can attend as warmly have resulted in less father quality of the husband-wife have been in developed countries,
and responsively to their children responsibility. For example, in Chile a relationship; for some men, the efforts are beginning in Jamaica,
as mothers.1 decline in the authority of the Church responsibility to children and the Lesotho, Bangladesh, Colombia, and

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 16 Early Childhood Matters

elsewhere. The more successful efforts have increased movements are demanding more of men at the same
the amount of father/child contact and father’s child time that their status in the home is being
support payments. These strategies have included: undermined. Programmes to increase father
• support groups in which fathers share their commitment are in their infancy. Many programmes
experiences with other men, and learn how to directed toward children, such as breastfeeding
parent; promotion, have not involved fathers. In development
• economic programmes to provide men with efforts, we must be wary of focusing on income
improved skills for earning a living; generation for a mother without considering the
• skill training, particularly prenatally, which increase in her workload, or the possibility that she
helps fathers to know how and when to nurture could be supported by someone else while children are
their children; young. This calls for a development strategy to
• education in schools for future parents; improve child welfare that not only provides
• mass media presentations of new models opportunities for women’s employment but also
for fathers; encourages father’s commitments to their children. "
• extensive opportunities to take responsibility for
the care of children. notes
1. Engle PL (1993) Is there a father instinct? Fathers’ responsibility for
Fathers who have had the experience of extended children; Working Paper Series; Population Council, New York, 
infant caretaking tend to become more aware of the 2. Nsamenang BA (1992) ‘Perceptions of parenting among the Nso of
child’s needs, even if the reason for their extended Cameroon’ in Hewlett BS (ed) Father-child relations: Cultural and
caretaking may have been economic rather than a biosocial contexts; Aldine de Gruyter, New York, 
desire to expand their caretaking roles. Often mothers 3. Katzman R (1992) Why are men so irresponsible?;  Review 46
play a large role in helping fathers to be more 4. Furstenberg FF (1988) ‘Good dads – bad dads: two faces of
involved. Becoming ‘attached’ to a child, which occurs fatherhood’ in Cherlin AJ (ed) The Changing American Family and
during early care giving, appears to be a significant Public Policy; Urban Institute Press, Washington, 
factor in long-term father/child bonds.6 5. Hewlett BS (1992) ‘Husband-wife reciprocity and the father-infant
relationship among Aka Pygmies,’ in Hewlett BS (ed) Father-child
We still know very little about factors that influence relations: cultural and biosocial contexts; Aldine de Gruyter, New York, 
father commitment to children. Despite the messages 6. Pedersen FA, Zaslow M, Cain RL, Suwalsky JT, and Rabinovich B
of the ‘new fatherhood’, and images which present a (1987) ‘Father-infant interaction among men who had contrasting
committed and involved parent, the reality is that fewer affective responses during early infancy,’ in Berman PW and Pedersen FA
fathers are taking responsibility for the economic (eds) Men’s transitions to parenthood: longitudinal studies of early family
support of their children than have in the past. Social experience; Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, 
Honduras: Father and child in La Cebadilla community
photo: Elaine Menotti, Hart Fellow with CCF Honduras

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 17 Early Childhood Matters

Involving fathers in community-based
early childhood programmes:
a report from Israel and the Palestinian Autonomous Region

Farid Abu Gosh

The author is Director of The Trust of Programmes for Early Childhood, Family and Community Education. Following a pilot
project in East Jerusalem, The Trust has accumulated 16 years of experience in development work in Arab Israeli communities,
and in Palestinian communities in the Palestinian Autonomous Region. Throughout that time, it has included a focus on early
childhood education. Generating and sustaining the involvement of parents – including fathers – has been central to the work
from the beginning and, in this article, the author discusses the approaches that have proved successful.

In 1984, when the Trust of Programmes on social security. The houses were very Activities and achievements graduation, were instrumental in
for Early Childhood, Family and poor, and the neighbourhoods were all building the Trust’s network.
Community Education began poverty-stricken. Predictably, children The project began with a pilot phase
operations, there were almost no early couldn’t meet the expectations of the that included: training para- Over the years, and with continued
childhood educational programmes for schools. In addition, relations between professional workers; family daycare; support from the Bernard van Leer
the Arab population in the Old City of the schools and the parents were non- home visiting; and leadership courses. Foundation, The Trust has expanded its
Jerusalem except the very basic health existent: there was a sort of hostile At the same time, the project sought to programme with Palestinian Israeli
education. The school system expected dependency of the parents on the influence policy makers and communities. It has also gained support
children to be enrolled at school with schools, and the schools often blamed professionals. In 1988, the scope and from other funders to disseminate its
basic educational background the parents for the poor achievements institutional base of the Trust’s work pilot programme in Palestinian
experiences, and to follow the school of children. Recognising this reality was extended and new components communities across the Palestinian
curriculum: ‘We have a book that should provided us with our point of were added to the programme. These Autonomous Region (West Bank
be finished by the end of the semester’ departure and enabled us to discover included: the creation of a strategically and Gaza).
summed up the teachers’ attitudes. our role: to not only prove that parents placed resource centre in the North of
should not be ignored, but to Israel; health and nutrition education; The actual work targets disadvantaged
We were dealing with 10,000 demonstrate that parents are the and a component for slow learners. A families and children and is tailor made
community members of whom a high school’s major partners in their postgraduate course was also developed to the local situation. Incorporated are
percentage were unemployed and living children’s education. for community workers who, after early childhood education and

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 18 Early Childhood Matters

community development activities. dimension to their teaching role, and into early childhood work; and was in • Furnishing knowledge about the
These may include the training and see the parents as partners. response to the perception that fathers father in the family context. This
supervision of preschool teachers in were not easy to engage, and to the fact complements what the project
centres; a component for youths who 2. Work with the families. The value of that they seemed to like participating already knows about mothers.
drop out of school; and a women's involving parents was a strong but weren’t always able to. The • Providing a more realistic view of
empowerment component focusing on explicit element of our programme. evaluation also recommended the realities of family life. This
training and counselling. The work It was quite easy to involve the continuing two effective approaches includes dynamic interactions in the
with women has enabled them to mothers and older sisters both in the that had been tried out in the pilot family and between the spouses.
participate in community development, planning and the implementation of phase: home visits to fathers; and • Building stronger relationships
including in the functioning of various the programme. Mothers were both Fathers’ Clubs. between the family and the project.
committees, and the operation of partners in the steering committee • Offering greater insights into the
preschools and educational libraries. and at the core of the Mother-to- Visiting fathers family settings.
Mother component in which they • Allowing more private discussions
How we took action were trained to guide other mothers To make its work effective, the Trust with fathers to explore in more
from the community. These mothers has always believed that it is important detail their problems and needs,
In contrast to the usual top down were our key to entering the to meet fathers in their social settings, and their expectations of the
government approach, our programme community and to the process of and to work with them there to build Fathers’ Clubs.
has always worked from the bottom to changing family attitudes towards a suitable intervention plan that meets • Allowing fathers to express the
the top: both the planning and the children’s education. Among areas their expectations and needs. This also nature of their readiness to
execution of the programme was done that we focused on were: the helps them to be involved in the participate in voluntary public
in full partnership with community importance of talking with children project and to begin to participate in activities and to share in building up
members, parents and members of the at an early age; the impact of the various activities of the Fathers’ local leadership, by representing the
extended family. The programme had communication with children; and Clubs. But the project workers have to community in the project.
the following two central elements. the dysfunctionality of the physical maintain, and sometimes intensify, the • Allowing the project to intervene in
punishment of children. home visits in order to really families, in the sense of helping them
1. Orientation work for the preschool understand exactly what prevents the to develop awareness of their needs,
teachers who were to work with the Within the early childhood fathers from participating. This helps and of methods of fulfilling them.
children and the families. This component, the programme has also them overcome the barriers to
element of the programme took the developed work with fathers. This is in participation. To reinforce the home visits, fathers are
form of a course and subsequent line with the evaluation of the pilot also given guided tours of the
supervision. It was critical to the phase that identified the need to These home visits have a number of programme and its various sections,
educators who had to add a new concentrate more on bringing fathers other vital functions. and services and activities are explained

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 19 Early Childhood Matters

to them – especially the kindergarten, Within these themes, specific topics to One typical activity is a social party for approved and planned by the Fathers’
the Sisters Club (for girls) and the work emerge have typically included: parents, which allows them to get to Committee. It could include a lecture, a
with mothers (their wives). We know and build social relationships film and a discussion about the lecture
emphasise the Fathers’ Club during this • communications within the family; with other families in the area. Such and the film.
visit, and explain its objectives and its • the influences of parents on their activities had previously been rejected
services. We also introduce the fathers children, especially in the sense of by families. They accept them now, and Other approaches and experiences
to existing members, and we introduce role modelling; we link this to a change in their
them to the three members of the • the influence of children suffering attitudes about participation by We have found that the involvement
Fathers’ Committee who are elected in from specific conditions, on family younger family members in other joint of their wives stimulates men to take
each centre. The members explain their life generally and on individuals activities – for example the Sisters’ an interest in their children’s
duties, tell the fathers how to approach within the family; Clubs for girls mentioned earlier. education: they start to enquire about
the Committee, and stress the • the roles and distribution of labour what their wives are doing in general,
importance of their participation. in the family, especially cooperation A second typical activity is a workshop and then become interested in what
between woman and man; for fathers on making toys. This may their wives are doing specifically – for
The Fathers’ Clubs • identifying the roles and duties that need a great deal of discussion and a example, during the home visits.
fathers have in rearing young great deal of planning to overcome Later the wives may become
Fathers’ Clubs are often launched with a children; and problems in getting the fathers to encouraged and share with their
meeting at which a proposed • the importance of play, and the roles attend. One major difficulty can be husbands the printed materials that
programme of activities is presented, and responsibilities of fathers. their perception that such an activity is they take on their home visits. After
discussed and modified, and then work for women or children. this stage the fathers may start going
agreed and implemented. This process The outcomes of this kind of work are Sometimes it has been necessary to to duty days at schools – peeling
has often produced substantial changes brought together with the outcomes of ensure that early work is clearly in the potatoes for example – and may take
in the proposed programme of similar work with women. Appropriate male domain – that they learn and use on roles in classes according to their
activities. For example, the subject activities are then planned to meet the carpentry or blacksmithing skills, for capabilities. For example, they may
matter could be amplified from a focus needs and to resolve the problems example. But it is only when the link is explain to the children about their
solely on early childhood to include all identified. made to their children’s need for such occupation and duties, and the
child development stages, the toys, and to their ability to meet this children may be able to visit the
characteristics of each, and the needs Such activities have to be planned in need, that they become enthusiastic. fathers’ work.
that children have. In addition, fathers a participative way with the fathers,
have asked for lectures and discussions and in line with Arab values and A third typical activity is a study day for Working with Fathers’ Committees has
on family life and its characteristics and customs: without that, the proposals couples. This will have been developed also proved to be a valuable way
dynamics, interactions between parents, for action would be met with disgust around one of the concerns expressed forward. Each of the three members are
and family management. and rejection. by the fathers and mothers, and known to all and are regarded as

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 20 Early Childhood Matters

representative of the community. The Under the supervision of counsellors,
functions of the Fathers’ Committee are: Fathers’ Committees learned to be
active in local policy issues that affected
• to work in cooperation with the the community. After seeing the success
programme; of our efforts, we started changing and
• to research the needs of the fathers developing the programme to meet the
in the communities; increasing needs of the community.
• to suggest specific activities; This was a real empowerment process
• to help plan them and ensure they in which the fathers learned how to
are viable; and present their needs, and work
• to encourage other fathers to fully effectively. They were ready to try to
participate in the activities of each influence other organisations in the
centre. neighbourhood including schools and
city departments. The Fathers’
One obstacle to progress was that Committees, together with the fathers
childrearing in Arab society was (husbands of the mothers who were Israel and the Palestinian Autonomous Region: The Trust of Programmes for Early Childhood, Family and Community Education

considered to be for mothers only so it involved in the programme as para-

was considered an offence to fathers’ professionals), acted as ambassadors for Working with fathers: the lessons we • Be ready for a long process, and
male egos to be involved. However, the the programme to other fathers who have learned understand that we are dealing with
fathers were interested in working on were reluctant to participate in the social changes, which have to go hand
influencing policy. programme. The negative, authoritarian Over the past 17 years we have gained a in hand with local social values.
image of the father was thereby great deal of experience in working with • Understand that this is a process of
To move things forward, the mothers changed into that of a positive partner. fathers. The major lessons we have empowerment that will challenge the
and the staff agreed to work with the learned from this programme include: organisation’s staff and programmes.
Fathers’ Committees on this basis, as a The Fathers’ Committees and other • In order to get involved, the fathers
starting point. In cooperation with a active fathers, took full responsibility • make partnership with parents into have to acknowledge their success
team of teachers and social workers, a for the programme of activities; and something valuable. and recognise their abilities.
male supervisor was therefore were also actively supporting the • Include the involvement of fathers in • Finally, the programme should always
appointed to work with the Fathers’ organisation of sessions; study days; a holistic approach. be followed up by a professional
Committees on ways in which they and group discussions with • Develop a system of respectful team, in addition to continuous
could engage more directly with their professionals such as physicians, listening and start from where the evaluation. "
children’s development and education. psychologists, and so on. family is.

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 21 Early Childhood Matters

The changing roles of fathers

Men in Families: exploring the impact of men

and reproductive health and choices in Mexico

“ Fostering greater involvement by men in reproductive health and decision making is

one of the key objectives of grantmaking related to population issues.

When a Chinantec woman gives birth in

this mountainside village in Oaxaca,
details of their partners’ menstrual cycles
– about pregnancy and reproduction.’
understand the impact of gender
relationships on reproductive health and

to say no, to avoid disease, to determine
the number and the spacing of their
Mexico, the man in her life often choices, to promote healthy reproductive children, and to receive support during
actively participates in the process. In In addition to serving as labour coaches behaviour, and to generate men’s pregnancy, delivery, and childrearing.’
traditional home births, he may deliver and herbal remedy specialists, men in support for women’s reproductive health
the baby himself or act as an assistant the village are the gatekeepers – and and rights. Today, the town council, a group of 30
to the midwife. ‘I held her during labour, often the barriers – to women’s men who wield the authority in San
massaged her with hot oil to warm her, reproductive health services. Historically, Men as gatekeepers to health Francisco, prohibits the local
and collected firewood for her tea,’ said ‘men considered it their right to regulate government-run health clinic from
one father in San Francisco, an women’s health and fertility.’ Says Ana The role of men in shaping family giving talks about or promoting family
indigenous village of 1,500. Said Cortés, an anthropologist who lived in choices is largely unexplored territory. planning. Women who seek help in
another: ‘I gave her the birthing herb, the community while conducting For the past four decades, research and planning their families often do so
attended to the baby, cut the umbilical research for the council. ‘Women were family planning programmes around the secretly and at risk of reprisal from their
cord, and did the chores before and under great pressure to bear as many world have focused almost exclusively on partners. According to an article by
after delivery.’ children as possible.’ women. This strategy leaves many needs anthropologist Carole Browner, who
unmet, according to Judith Bruce of the worked in the village in 1981, local men
Men in San Francisco ‘are intimately With a grant from the MacArthur Population Council in New York. ‘The once destroyed a tree because its bark,
involved in the health of their partners,’ Foundation, the Population Council is inescapable fact is that women are often when prepared as tea, was used by
says Kathryn Tolbert of the Population examining the ways that men in this not carrying out their own wishes when women as contraceptive.
Council in Mexico. ‘They are the Chinantec town, and in several other it comes to their health, fertility, or many
preferred birth attendants and are rich sites in Mexico, influence the health and other parts of their lives,’ she says. ‘A Ask Judith Bruce: ‘What do women
repositories of information about herbal well-being of their families and primary reason women can’t achieve want men to know? And what
remedies related to childbirth. Men have communities. As with a similar project their objectives is that they are not free information would men like to have to
extensive knowledge – down to the in India, the Population Council seeks to to discuss with their partners their right better support women? These are the

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 22 Early Childhood Matters

considered almost sacred,’ says Karen Understanding men’s perceptions
Morris, who coordinated a survey of about their sexuality, their partners,
240 Chinantec men and women. Men and their children is critical to
who were surveyed expressed their designing effective reproductive health
commitment to building up the town. programmes, says Kathryn Tolbert.
‘We have children so the town will have Although men are often reluctant to
enough people and so we won’t be discuss their private lives, she says, they
without human resources in the future,’ open up when they understand the
said one man. ‘Children will lend us a project will benefit the community.
Mexico: Culturally Peripheral Communities Programme
hand tomorrow, so that our homes ‘We’re finding that men in Mexico are
questions we are answering with this outbreak killed many children. They’ve won’t be abandoned when we pass on,’ very interested in reproductive health.
research. We’re searching for also survived attacks from a said another. They feel left out of programmes
information that will help men and neighbouring town over land disputes. directed toward women alone. They are
women form a better partnership in More recently, emigration has greatly A community in transition waiting to be included.’ "
making decisions that have a profound reduced their population and, especially,
effect on women’s health and lives and that of the neighbouring town. Even in remote San Francisco, attitudes This article is reprinted with permission from The
on the well-being of their families and about families are in transition. In work Ahead (1998) published by the John D and
the whole community.’ ‘There’s a sense that many children, recent interviews, many men said they Catherine T MacArthur Foundation. More
especially sons, are needed to sustain thought two or three children was the information about the MacArthur Foundation is
Procreation and destiny the town’s administrative, political, and ideal family size, though many had far available from 140 South Dearborn Street, Chicago,
religious functions’ she says, more. One man with ten children said, Illinois 60603, ; and http://www.macfound.org
In San Francisco, as in most ‘Procreation is seen as intimately linked ‘Although I would have liked to have
communities, attitudes toward to the town’s history and destiny.’ fewer, God sent me all of these.’ Associated weblinks
childbearing have deep cultural and Another reflected: ‘When you’re young, Population Council: www.popcouncil.org
historical roots, says Ana Cortés. ‘The Until recently, very large families were you don’t think about the consequences The Hopkins Population Center:
community has a great fear about losing considered the ideal in San Francisco. of having so many children until it’s too www.jhsp.edu/Research/Centers/Population
their population’ she says. ‘They The community places a great value on late. You become aware after having had Alan Guttmacher Institute: www.agi-usa.org
survived epidemics that were rampant education and takes pride in its some schooling that it is better to have
in colonial times. In the 1960s, a measles burgeoning schools. ‘Children are a small family.’
Trinidad & Tobago: Learning fathering skills
photo: Servol Life Centre Adolescent Parent Programme
Redefining fatherhood:
a report from the Caribbean
Janet Brown and Barry Chevannes

Janet Brown is Tutor/Coordinator of the Caribbean Child Development Centre, School of Continuing Studies, University of the West Indies.
Barry Chevannes is Dean and Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of the West Indies. In this article, they review the systematic focus of the
University over 13 years on the differences between what mothers contribute to childrearing and the contributions of fathers. To do that, they discuss
what has been discovered across Caribbean countries through a regional survey (1987); a pilot study called ‘The Contribution of Caribbean Men to
the Family’ (1991-92)1; and a participatory research project called ‘The Gender Socialisation Project’ (1993-1995) 2. They then reflect on some of the
outcomes of this continuing work, showing the breadth and depth of the approaches that are necessary if there is to be effective change 3.

‘The Contribution of Caribbean Men to girls. Further, a search of materials on on behalf of the family; investigations in Jamaica and other
the Family’ A pilot study in Jamaica the Caribbean family produced • survey and describe the current Caribbean countries that could
considerable literature on women and attitudes and behaviours of a cross- provide data to complement the
A survey of early childhood mothers, but almost nothing on men section of men in Jamaica; Jamaican study.
programmes conducted in eleven and the family. Instead, stereotypes • use ethnographic/participatory
Caribbean countries by the Caribbean about men’s attitudes and behaviours methods to generate data and local This initial study probed a range of
Child Development Centre ()4 in in relation to their families – mostly analysis and problem solving related issues related to men’s attitudes and
1987 determined that, despite growing negative – were substitutes for to the topics of the study; behaviours about family life and
recognition of and support for informed data. • make research findings available in childrearing, through a questionnaire
organised child care programmes formats that would serve not only administered to 700 Jamaican men
around the Caribbean, on average 85 As a result,  set out in 1990 to professional research/teaching from two urban and two rural
percent of children below the age of examine men’s contributions to the interests but also the concerns of communities. Complementary series of
four remained at home, in the care of family in Jamaica, undertaking to: public educators, family life discussion groups with men and
parents or other family caregivers. It workers, and gender studies women were conducted in the same
also showed that parenting education • provide a socio-historical groups; and communities as those surveyed or in
efforts in the region were primarily perspective on the roles men in the • design formats and materials to be adjoining ones.
directed toward women and teenage Caribbean have played within and used in conducting similar

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 25 Early Childhood Matters

It was soon apparent that this study unwilling to provide sufficient financial cultural value, important to prove long that imply authority and decision-
needed to be concerned with man and support, he often remains peripheral to before any consideration is given to making status.
his families because a Jamaican man’s the family, literally or figuratively, settling into a stable union. Men in this
family is defined differently at different fuelling the stereotype of the ‘absent’ initial study distinguished ‘getting’ The study in fact indicated that men are
points in his life. There are life long and ‘irresponsible’ father. children (being named as father, far more involved in positively
family responsibilities to parents accepting paternity) from ‘having’ contributing to family life than popular
(especially the mother); to his siblings Socio-economic realities and them, which implied maintenance and stereotypes suggest. They have clear
and their children; to the women who definitions of manhood care, and was most often used for the ideas about what good fathers should
bear his children; and to his ‘outside’ children of a more mature man, or one be, agreeing that they should counsel
children (children from earlier unions Two factors emerged that are significant able to provide and be a real father. and communicate with their children,
that he is not living with). In addition, in understanding the reality of how While men derived self-definitions from be responsible with the mother for
there may be responsibilities to children men actually fulfil the expected roles of paternity – believing that without inculcating moral values and social
of his common law or married life, with fatherhood – or do not. The first relates children they would be incomplete, skills in their children, be the financial
whom he now resides. to contradictions that men experience lonely, empty, less mature – for many, providers, and act as role models. On
as they try to live out these expectations ‘getting’ children was sufficient for this the other hand, many admit they
Traditionally, in Jamaican/Caribbean in a socio-economic climate which end. Ability to provide for them bears cannot or do not always fulfil their
culture it has been clear that a man’s makes fulfilling them very nearly little weight, particularly for younger responsibilities to the extent they feel
primary obligation to his family(ies), impossible. High unemployment and men, in accepting paternity. they should. Irrespective of some men’s
his role as a family man and father, is underemployment, migration to earn, efforts to redefine manhood in more
that of providing for the family. It also women’s increasing entrance into the In this first study, nurturing children fatherly ways, economic deprivation can
showed that there were very low formal labour market (away from was rarely described as a man’s serve to retard the development of
expectations of fathers playing an active home), the erosion of the extended function. While the majority of men in more positive mating and childrearing
role in raising their children beyond family’s resources to assist with child both the survey and discussion groups behaviour. Attitudinal change and
financial provision. Mothers carry the care: all present barriers for men and described their active, often daily, structural changes are clearly
major burdens of childcare, and many women as they attempt to fill their participation in tidying, playing and interrelated.
are also breadwinners. If a father is able understood roles. reasoning with their children, and in
to provide regular financial support, he helping regularly with homework, these Other emergent issues from the
is deemed the ‘rightful’ head of the The second factor concerns the tasks are perceived by most men and Jamaican study
family, even when non-resident, and is meanings fatherhood has for Jamaican women as primarily women’s work.
expected to be the ultimate men. Initially, ‘getting’ a child testifies Men themselves do not yet value them, The interviews and group discussions
disciplinarian and a guide for his manhood. Sexual prowess with females particularly if the man is not seen as the pointed to a number of other lessons
children. However, if unable or – preferably in multiples – is a strong breadwinner and thus family head, roles learned.

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 26 Early Childhood Matters

• Men welcome the opportunity to ‘The Gender Socialisation Project’
talk about their family A participatory research project in
relationships, particularly in groups Jamaica, Guyana and Dominica
of men only, where they felt less
need to be defensive. In 1993, the University of the West
• Many feel great pain at their own Indies, at the invitation of the
shortcomings as fathers, whether Caribbean office of , began a
they blame themselves, their two year participatory research project
partners, or the wider society for to redress the shortage of research
these deficits. literature on men’s family roles and to
• The frequency and quality of the provide material which would further
man’s relationship with his understanding of how gender roles are
children was highly dependent on played out within families. Six
his relationship with the child’s communities, three in Jamaica, two in
mother. Guyana and one in Dominica were
• Outside children are often chosen as study sites, representing a
sacrificed to the welfare of those range of urban to rural, and no-income
children within current unions. to low-income, Indo- and Afro-
• Little is known about the quality Caribbean populations. The project’s
and impact of stepfathering by rationale was similar to that of the pilot
women’s new partners. study in Jamaica discussed earlier, but
• Conditions of poverty and was also cognisant of such factors as:
underemployment, and the
growing economic independence of • male under-achievement in schools
women, leave both men and relative to the performance of girls;
women calling for changes in • the ‘feminisation’ of the education
division of labour and system;
responsibility in matters of • obvious early gender differen-
childrearing, but as yet there are no tiations, and the implications of
real challenges to the traditional these for children’s identity,
gender roles that constrain these relationship formation and social
changes. roles;
Dominican Republic
photo: Esperanza Luengo

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 27 Early Childhood Matters

determine how gender roles are defined
– vary greatly and should therefore be
considered in the design of
development programmes.

Common themes emerged from the

findings of the ethnographic teams who
spent approximately six months visiting
the communities. These themes are
summarised below.

Caribbean manhood

As in the Jamaican pilot study,

discussions of the concept of manhood
concentrated almost exclusively on
three elements: sexuality/sexual
identity; man’s primary role as provider
and protector; and scriptural authority
for man as family head.

Sexuality/sexual identity
This was usually measured by the
Trinidad & Tobago: Father and child in preschool
number of serial or concurrent female
photo: Servol sexual partners; and by the resultant
number of children. Fear and disgust of
• high and rising crime rates, In many ways, the research project can psychological development of children, homosexuality were commonly
particularly for young males; be seen as a conceptual extension of the and in sharing financial responsibility expressed, with many parents believing
• the number of male street children; Jamaican study. It started from the view for family welfare, has not been well that certain childrearing practices or
• and the disproportionate number of that the male’s role in family and understood. It then went on to consider child behaviours could lead to this
males in penal institutions and community decision making, in how cultural and economic factors at ‘deviance’. Demonstrating manhood
children’s homes. influencing the nutritional and both local and regional levels – which enhanced the self-image of young males

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 28 Early Childhood Matters

and alleviated the worry of parents Almost equally with men across the six concurrent or serial partnerships as responsible for giving their partners
about homosexuality. Sexual activity for communities, women subscribed to economic necessity, while men saw money to run the household and to
boys therefore begins early, often with these elements of manhood. But, as the female infidelity as unacceptable for any support the family’s needs. Women
the discreet knowledge of parents, and Jamaican study also concluded, an reason, and punishable. generally see any money they earn as
the encouragement of fathers. inherent dilemma lies in this pattern. their own, to spend on the household
Scoring high ‘manhood’ points as a Men’s ultimate power and authority and on themselves, as ‘insurance’
Man’s primary role as provider and young man by early sexual activity and The assertion that man is the head of against any future desertion by their
protector secured paternity with multiple the house remains the point at which partner, or for any outside children
A man who cannot provide for his partners sows the seeds of later almost any discussion of male-female they may have. There were wide-
family is not a man. Even when a difficulty, even impossibility, in partnerships begins and ends – if not in ranging opinions on whether, and
female partner is working, providing for achieving success at later stages of fact, at least in spirit. It is defended by how much, earnings affect power
the family is never seen as her major manhood. As some respondents Christians, Hindus and Moslems as relationships between men and
responsibility. Related to this role, man expressed it, some men never become religious tradition, ordained by God, women. Better education for
also is to be the ‘protector’ of his family, real men who can meet the later criteria and as historical and cultural females, women working outside
implying not only literal defence of his for manhood, beyond the exercise of inheritance. More recent forces – such as the home, and male migration
children against adversity, but ensuring their sexuality. harsh global economic realities, the were often discussed as threatening
their financial security. Domestic tasks international women’s liberation male headship and upsetting
are still seen as predominantly women’s Man/woman relationships movement, and foreign media relationships.
work and do not enhance a man’s self- intrusions – are credited by both men
image. Nurturing and homemaking Man/woman relations are characterised and women with challenging history This study reinforces previous
skills, when acquired by men, are not by high degrees of distrust and and tradition, upsetting ‘natural order’ research findings which suggest that
generally seen as options that broaden disillusionment. The following themes and contributing to the erosion of man’s the partnership with the children’s
the definition of manhood, or as which emerged repeatedly in all authority in the home and to power mother becomes vulnerable and the
substitute contributions when financial community discussions, evidenced this struggles between men and women. man’s authority tenuous when he
provision is lacking. overall characterisation. These struggles often seemed related to cannot provide sufficiently for his
the growing economic independence children. Other women, and long
Scriptural authority for man as family Male-female fidelity of women, and affected all areas of hours in the rum bar or at the domino
head Men generally defended their right to family life. table with male friends, are common
Manhood implies authority, particularly and need for multiple partners although male recourses to the resulting
over women and offspring. This some stipulated that this should not Expectations of men as primary source of financial pressures and demands,
authority is seen as natural, being part interfere with the maintenance of their family finances reinforcing his marginal status to
of ‘God’s plan’. children. Women saw their own It was always understood that men are his family(ies).

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 29 Early Childhood Matters

Division of domestic labour across of physical violence against one’s communities. There were many men and early sexual encounters are
traditional gender lines partner – usually men beating women. and women who still spoke of love, of considered normal.
Men and women see division of labour A rough thread that ran through the sharing and equity, and of give and
differently: the male is prescribed the accounts of partners resorting to take, and humour and mutual respect The ultimate goal for both boys and
roles of breadwinner, provider and violence was the notion of broken redeemed many a potentially girls is that of gaining economic
protector, and the woman assumes the contracts, contracts that were often inflammatory discussion of sensitive independence and readiness to take up
roles of homemaker and nurturer; this based on unstated or misunderstood topics. However, the degree to which the responsibilities of providing for and
division largely determines how men expectations. For example, a man was more negative sentiments dominated protecting a family. But gender
and women see domestic duties within defended in a group for beating his wife many conversations represents a distinctions and assumptions are
the home. However, the discussions when she didn’t prepare dinner for him significant outcome of the socialisation central to most childrearing practices.
revealed that men often do a on a Friday night. Why? Because he was patterns common in raising the These include a preference for boys
considerable amount of work within away from home all week doing farm children who become men and because of their economic potential and
the domestic sphere, especially when work to support his family. He kept his women. because they carry on the family name;
children are young and can’t share in side of the bargain, but she didn’t. and the prevalence of homophobic
the labour. But there were many Parent/child relations and practice myths about the development of male
contradictory and ambivalent messages Whether the woman feels she is entitled sexuality.
about whether such tasks really belong to challenge the man’s authority often The research suggests that traditional
to men or are only required when a relates to the woman’s level of childrearing strategies are becoming less In addition, parents feel increasingly
woman can’t manage all of the work. education and/or financial and less effective. At the core of helpless against external factors that
Such participation is rarely celebrated independence. When a woman feels she traditional strategies is the concept influence their children. The survival
by men and not always by women, can survive without depending on a described in Guyana as ‘Tie the heifer, strategies traditionally employed in
some of whom see a very domesticated man’s labour, that she has options by loose the bull’, implying the protection raising boys seem no longer realistic.
man as ‘soft’ or as someone who way of her education or with other and monitoring of daughters while sons Education and skill acquisition for a
watches and criticises everything the available men, she is less inclined to are allowed, even encouraged, to have livelihood by traditional routes – school
woman does in the home, thus accept physical abuse, and may in fact more freedom and independence. For a achievement and apprenticeship – are
intruding on her domain. prefer to live without a man at all. girl, the point is to avoid early often blocked or severely hampered by
pregnancy while equipping her for economic deficiencies at home and in
Domestic violence as a result of broken Give and take economic independence and/or (usually the school system. If boys do not drop
relationship ‘contracts’ Distrust, disillusionment, broken and) partnership with a man. In out of school to earn for themselves or
Not all groups discussed this topic contracts, domestic violence ... these contrast, sons are encouraged to their families, they often leave school
freely, but some had candid and heated certainly did not characterise all the develop independence and assumption with few skills that can be turned to
debates about the levels of acceptability man-woman relationships in all six of responsibility by seeking earnings; ready profit. ‘By any means necessary’

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 30 Early Childhood Matters

for some becomes an alternate strategy, definitions of manhood and on
as more and more young men end up fathering, other external factors were
in illicit activities to achieve their also investigated by the research teams,
material goals; on the street instruction including the influences of peer
in these skills is readily available, groups, social class and ethnicity,
particularly in poorer urban settings. In community role models, organised
such settings, apprenticeship religion, education, and other cultural
opportunities to learn useful skills are and subcultural institutions.
less available and less attractive.
The influence of the peer group is
Protection strategies for girls are also perceived as being dominant,
increasingly difficult to enforce. The particularly as children reach puberty
need for mothers to work outside the and beyond. Many parents feel that
home reduces opportunities to they have little countervailing
supervise and instruct. Liberating influence against peer pressure as the
options for girls and women have teen years approach. There is
expanded their choices outside home considerable evidence that peers and
and family, and the growth of con- peer groups (such as sports clubs,
sumerism has fuelled a range of school cliques, street gangs) more
economic activities among girls and strongly influence male socialisation
young women, including bartering with than female.
sex to meet their material needs. Urban Caribbean: Men generally defended their right to and need for multiple partners
environments, in particular, also offer There were numerous references to the From: Why Man Stay So - Tie the Heifer, Loose the Bull; University of West Indies

ready exposure to alternate lifestyles to influence of the media, particularly

girls as well as boys. Such lifestyles television, in conveying and often, but some men also declared that and supporting traditional roles and
often appear to work against the values strengthening non-traditional images their wives spent too much time values. But church/temple attendance
and goals of parents. and ideas that are perceived by many watching soap operas and neglected and religious practices have a
informants as having a negative impact their duties in the home. stronger hold on girls than boys,
External factors in socialisation on cultural values and practices – largely through differential parental
including traditional gender roles – Organised religion, on the other enforcement and/or the perception
In addition to the many economic that they would wish to preserve. The hand, whether Christian, Hindu or that boys are under less parental
factors that impact on families, on influence on children was decried most Moslem, is seen as both generating influence at earlier ages and can

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 31 Early Childhood Matters

therefore stop attending on their attitudes to history, community and broadened investment in family roles - Specific programmes and
own. Interfaith friendships are less self have obvious implications for the would not only be of greater benefit to strategies for following up these
often opposed on religious grounds socialisation of male and female his children, but that he, too, would issues, particularly for developing
as on the fear that strong children. Discussions within this benefit from being a better father, and a deeper understanding of the
cultural/ethnic traditions will be project barely scratched the surface of from improved relationships with his Caribbean male in family,
eroded and contribute to family these issues. children and their mother(s). community and national life.
conflict. - The implications for further
Acting on the research: 1995 to the A number of initiatives followed research.
If social class differences were present directly from the research, supported by • In May 1996, a new Caribbean radio
examined more thoroughly than was : drama series was completed and made
possible in this study, many differences Overall, the research findings suggested available to radio stations within the
would be found in the areas described the need for a range of interventions to • participants from five of the six English-speaking Caribbean and to
above. In one community, teachers target the key socialisers of the young: communities in the research shared stations serving West Indian
agreed that upper classes in the present parents, educators, church leaders, with their communities in skits, communities abroad. The series
day Caribbean are more susceptible to sports coaches, musicians, and songs, school poster contests, presented many of the common and
cross-cultural (including cross-ethnic) community leaders, as well as the young discussions and other activities, their often contradictory attitudes and
influences on gender roles, while the themselves. Such interventions should perceptions of the research and its perceptions of Caribbean men about
lower classes tend to cling to facilitate exploring, without implications for them. themselves within their various worlds
traditional male/female roles. These defensiveness or fear, the ways in which • Three symposia were held between – in relation to women, their children,
effects on the upper class are not cultural/social constructions of gender June and October 1995 in the three friends, and the wider society. The
always seen as positive, as this same roles can erect barriers to selfrealisation countries studied, to present the primary objective of these
group of teachers felt that street gangs and familial role satisfaction for both findings of the research to a total of programmes was to foster more
are primarily the work of children of men and women. Bob Marley’s plea to 185 programme and policy level discussion and debate, and more
wealthy parents who are so busy ‘emancipate yourself from mental colleagues. The symposia each personal reflection about the
accumulating wealth that their slavery’ speaks evocatively to both men addressed: important ways in which men and
children are left unattended and and women about many of the - implications for policy, women live out their social roles day
unguided, and are thus easy prey for unchallenged structures that constrain education, employment, health, to day, how they pass these roles on to
the Western youth cultures through them. It was felt important to community organisation and their children, and how they see these
films, television and other media. encourage the trends, however tentative, development, and family life; and roles changing. Although these
in the direction of defining manhood the roles of the media, churches programmes were aired in many
Much more investigation of persons’ and fatherhood more widely to include and other mentoring countries and – reportedly – were
understandings of cultural/racial/class nurturing, and the sharing of domestic organisations in acting on the repeated in some, no systematic
differences is clearly needed, as these tasks. It was also felt that a man’s implications. feedback on impact was obtained5.

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 32 Early Childhood Matters

• In 1996 Participatory Learning for Without the benefit of specific impact Since the ‘men only’ sessions kickstarted on behalf of the land, so I would not
Action () methods were used to studies, it can only be hoped that these by the Caribbean Child Development have to destroy it’. Founded by a group of
examine gender-related issues at project output activities have Centre in 1991 (see box on ‘Fathers, mostly young university students, the
community level in St. Lucia, Grenada compounded and perhaps accelerated Incorporated’ on page 37), several Gappists have organised a summer camp
and Jamaica, confirming many of the the growing awareness of and groups have used this approach to try for low-income boys in a nearby high
findings of the pressures for change in Caribbean and develop men’s agendas for change. school, and have held a series of seminars
earlier studies. definitions of manhood and Religious groups have been in the aimed at aiding men and women to
• In Jamaica the focus of this activity fatherhood. While the numbers of forefront, organising several men’s better understand issues of male identity,
more specifically addressed how very children born to teenage mothers is conferences with calls for more male sexuality and fatherhood. They have
young children are socialised into still rising slightly, change is reflected responsible fatherhood and a ‘return to also recently established a Gappist
gender roles. Funds from the in a dropping overall fertility rate and family values’. Jamaica’s inordinate chapter in a prominent all boys high
international Consultative Group on shrinking family size. The costs for number of churches, large and small, are school, targeting future leaders.
Early Childhood Care and caring and educating each child at made up of predominantly female
Development made this possible as least through secondary school are members, even though the pulpits The discourse on these issues has
part of a multi-country study 6. steadily rising in a no-growth remain a largely male domain. The qualitatively deepened over these past
• Materials based on the research have economy, and government is not yet church community as a whole feels it years, and has become more than just
been developed for use in able to provide a social safety net that has a strong mandate to help restore defensive retorts to feminist challenges
multipurpose workshops on gender ensures a minimal level of living men to their Biblical/traditional role for change. The discourse continues
equity and gender role standard for all. within the family, and as responsible across the Caribbean. We note a men’s
confusions/contradictions. Two short providers for their children. group in Trinidad formed against
summaries of the two research In this climate, gender issue debates domestic violence;8 university-level
projects have been published in user flourish on the plethora of daily radio Some church groups take this outreach seminars on issues of manhood;9 male
friendly formats, one a workbook of and  talk shows, in theatre offerings, role to men well beyond the pulpit; there parent groups meeting regularly in
participatory sessions to explore the youth group meetings, parent-teacher are many church-sponsored sports clubs Dominica;10 a fatherhood conference
common issues of meetings, etc. Several organisations and church men’s groups who work with scheduled for Belize in 2001;11 and a
the research in community groups, have sought to channel these airings of young boys, particularly in activities male adolescent programme for teen
the other used by University of the often contentious and contradictory designed to reduce their risk of antisocial fathers that extended into a parish-wide
West Indies students in several topics from simple ventilation to a or illegal behaviours. One such new men’s movement in Jamaica.12 A report
courses as well as available to the more structured focus on personal group formed in 1999 calls itself The on men’s workshops in the Eastern
general public. reflection and change, and on Gappists, taking its name from the Caribbean highlighted how in the dark
• A full monograph by Chevannes collective problem solving, aided by Biblical reference to God’s search ‘for a most men are about how their bodies
will be available in the first quarter skilful facilitators. man among them who would build up function, and how male-unfriendly most
of 2001.7 the wall and stand before me in the gap of the health care systems in the region

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 33 Early Childhood Matters

male in relationships’, and that ‘the attitudes to unwanted and ill-timed
family was a contingent, negotiated pregnancies; it was significant that
accomplishment’ that took into the pregnancy of a man’s ‘bona fide’
account property ownership and partner (primary among multiples)
control of resources as much as could be considered mistimed, but
fulfilment of gender role rarely unwanted. The children which
expectations. The greatest bitterness resulted from unprotected, casual
expressed by these young persons sex, were most often unwanted. A
towards their fathers related to non- second section of the research
performance in their role of describes men’s concepts of
economic provider; they did not fatherhood, strongly underscoring
expect much else from them. the findings described in the two
However, it was reported that studies herein reported. Throughout
lifelong respect was gained by the study poverty intervened to
mothers who juggled roles of both largely determine a father’s ‘fate’:
mother and father. Violence in man-
woman relationships was seen as In denying men the opportunity to
inevitable by these children, not perform the function that is central to
much more than an extension of the their concept of fatherhood, poverty
Caribbean: Overflow families prefer to have the male child first
From: Why Man Stay So - Tie the Heifer, Loose the Bull; University of West Indies
often harsh disciplinary practices robs them of their self-esteem. One of
they have grown up with. Young boys the most poignant and instructive
complain that they cannot get the remarks made in the focus group
are in specifically addressing men’s data. This is illustrated in the following attention of their female classmates, discussion suggests that a mask of
ignorance and fears.13 four studies. who look for older males with indifference often hides a mountain of
earnings. despair: ‘Sometimes a man want to do
More recent research has served the 1 A  three-country examination of something but he can’t. So him just
dual purposes of keeping manhood and youth attitudes to family and gender 2 The ’s Fertility Management Unit pretend like him nuh want fi do
fatherhood issues on the public agenda relations14 showed that for children has just completed a major study of nutten.’ [Sometimes a man wants to do
as well as supplying policy and public and teens, money is ‘critical in the male reproductive behaviours.15 One something but he can’t. So he just
debates on these issues with harder very definition of the role of the section of the report examines men’s pretends that he doesn’t want to do it.]

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 34 Early Childhood Matters

3. A major longitudinal study of almost schooling. Chevannes’ review of more broadly expressed fear for the men are to play in economic climates
2000 Jamaican children16 who were Ministry of Education records clearly fabric of the whole society. analogous to quicksand for many.
assessed on a wide range of variables documents high male drop out rates, • The reports draw attention to the Add in an educational system that
at birth and again at age 11, provided poor male school attendance, male strains on men unable to support appears to be programming male
some sobering data in relation to avoidance of ‘female’ subjects (such their families without migrating, or failure, and issues of redefining
fathers. as English!), and differential resorting to illicit activities. manhood and the roles of fathers
treatment of boys and girls • More and more women will be move to the front burner.
• Half of the mother-father unions throughout the school system. (See carrying the double parenting roles,
at birth had ended over this also Evans18). and the numbers of children without The challenge for those who are
period, most in the first three years adequate care and supervision will concerned about children’s rights and
of the child’s life. How do these latest research activities continue to grow as a result. welfare within these debates is to
• One third of fathers did not bear on redefining maleness and ensure that the importance of men as
continue their parenting roles; a fatherhood? The way forward fathers, as nurturing, supportive and
high percentage of these protective influences in their children’s
maintained no contact with the • They have raised serious alarm bells The decade of raised awareness of lives, becomes central. This is nascent
child. among educators, policy makers, fatherhood issues that began in the but happening. The emergence of child
• In examining school performance service organisations, and the arena of gender role disparities and rights issues over the past decade,
and behaviour, the father’s business sector, as to the implications contradictions is moving into a new originally almost a foreign concept to
presence in the home, a stable of growing numbers of under- period of broader debates, engaging the culture, has aided in reminding the
parent relationship, and higher educated males fuelling men in examining issues of identity society of a child’s right to the care and
level of parental education were unemployment lines and the nation’s formation, in challenging traditional attention of both parents, and has
associated with positive child jails; some even worry about the cultural values, and, for some, in brought the broad needs of children
outcomes in the study group. implications for educated women reasserting their right to greater access beyond just financial support to
• Conditions of poverty were seeking ‘suitable’ male partners. to their children. greater public notice. Preschool and
demonstrably evident in these • The ‘marginalisation’ of the man to primary school practitioners have
findings. the family is now seen as a wider These new debates have forced many begun to focus more deliberately on
‘under-participation’ of men in the men and women to ask deeper parent involvement and education,
4. Data compiled by Chevannes17 has broader social goals and values of the questions about the kind of society joining churches and community
provided further insights into the society – thus no longer only a they really want (in the face of groups in this endeavour. A National
phenomenon of male under- complaint from women about perceived erosion of traditional family Coalition on Better Parenting has
achievement at all levels of formal inequitable domestic loads, but a roles and values), and about the roles emerged to share strategies and

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 35 Early Childhood Matters

materials among scarce professionals Conclusion
and local community-based
organisations, in order to strengthen Ten years of research and experimental
the engagement of fathers and mothers interventions still add up to only the
in understanding the critical start of greater understanding of gender
importance of their roles. There is socialisation issues in the Caribbean,
visible evidence on the streets of men and of removing some of the obstacles
caring for their children, taking them that define male-female relationships
to clinic, even fighting for their and gender role conflicts. Education, in
custody in court. all its broad definitions, is critical in
challenging many of the constraining
But there is much more work still to be attitudes and values transmitted daily
done with and by men, before they can from adults to children. Education
more publicly begin to celebrate these planners and policy makers, in tandem
aspects of their manhood; before they with community leaders and s,
can understand their direct must continue to provoke personal and
opportunities to affect positively their collective reflection and problem-
children’s performance and behaviour; solving, while at the same time seeking
and before they can see that their deeper understanding of the underlying
investments of time and caring have to cultural, economic and psychological
go beyond financial support. The Father causes for some of the society’s most
of the Year Awards (see box on next harmful inequities. In all of this, the
page) have provided one such public welfare of children, particularly in the
celebration in Jamaica. Its impact on earliest formative stages of their
real behaviours is not known, but it is a development, must come to the
move in the direction of enhancing foreground of this agenda, so that men
men’s self-concepts with the nurturing and women work together at gender
aspects of fathering. This direction is role resolutions, with their children at
slowly gaining momentum. the centre of their exchanges. "
Dominican Republic: Boys preparing a meal
photo: Esperanza Luengo

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 36 Early Childhood Matters

Fathers, Incorporated
Notes and references Caribbean masculinity: towards a research
agenda’ (1996) University of the West Indies, St.
A workshop in 1991 for fathers only was Despite keen loyalty from a core group that
1. Brown J (1993) Gender relations and conflicts in Augustine
attended by 17 men, participants at the remains strong, Fathers, Incorporated has
fathering; paper presented at the Derek Gordon 10. The Social Centre, providing most of
Caribbean Child Development Centre’s (CCDC) remained a volunteer group of primarily blue
Memorial Research Symposium, Kingston, Jamaica Dominica’s preschool services, has convened
fathers’ group meetings for many as part of their first parenting symposium. A common collar workers for whom earning a living has to
2. Brown J and Chevannes B (1998) Why man stay so:
tie the heifer, loose the bull; University of the West parenting education programme denominator among these men was the belief take priority over their volunteer activities. The
Indies, Jamaica. More information about the 11. National Organisation for the Prevention of that women stereotype them unfairly as University’s outreach arm of the Department of
University of the West Indies is available from Child Abuse in Belize: Conference on ‘Issues of irresponsible fathers. Under the leadership of Sociology and Social Work has lent research
http://isis.uwimona.edu fatherhood’ scheduled for August 2001 facilitator Dr. Barry Chevannes, the group was assistant and student time to aid their
3. Some parts of the article have been drawn from 12. Mordecai M (1996) Putting May Pen on the eager to meet again, and a core group of activities, but extending the organisation
Brown J ‘Gender relations and conflicts in fathering’ MAP: Male Adolescent Programme; Bernard Van approximately ten men began meeting weekly, nationwide has so far been beyond their
in Coordinators Notebook, 16, 1995; The Consultative Leer Foundation//University of West Indies
calling themselves Fathers Only. energies and scope.
Group on Early Childhood and Development (). 13. Reports from men’s workshops in several
More information about the  is available from countries of the Caribbean.
When CCDC held a second parenting However, four years ago Fathers, Incorporated
http://www.ecdgroup.com 14. Bailey W, Branche C and McGarrity G (1996)
Family and the Quality of Gender Roles in the symposium a year later, this time for men only, launched what perhaps has provided the
4. The Caribbean Child Development Centre ()
of the University of the West Indies School of Caribbean;  for the Ford Foundation the Fathers Only group assisted during the day greatest impact of the group to date: they
Continuing Studies was established in 1975 to 15. Bailey W, Hamilton P, Jackson J, Lee A and of workshops. As the culminating activity of sponsored an essay contest among schools,
promote healthy child development in the region Wynter A (2000) a) A Caribbean construction of that day, they officially launched their group asking applicants to state why their fathers
through training programmes, research, curricula fatherhood; b) Mistimed and unwanted with the new name Fathers, Incorporated and should be named ‘Father of the Year’.
and other materials, and policy pregnancies among Jamaican men aged 15-40; began a recruitment drive. Considerable media attention is given to this
5. ‘How man really feel’ drama series, available as Advanced Research and Fertility Management
contest which culminates on Father’s Day each
audiotapes from , University of the West Indies, Unit, University of the West Indies, Mona, for the
The group became involved in a range of year. The profiles of the responsible and caring
Jamaica World Health Organisation
activities – volunteer work in a government fathers who have won each year have provided
6. Evans JL (1997) ‘Both halves of the sky: gender 16. Samms-Vaughan M (2000) Cognition,
children’s home, peer counselling training, a public models for the kind of fathers that
socialisation in the early years’ in Coordinator’s educational attainment and behaviour in a cohort
Notebook, 20; The Consultative Group on Early of Jamaican children; Department of Child workshop on Violence, Self and the Young young persons would desire to have, and the
Childhood Care and Development () Health, University of the West Indies/The Male (1993), and provocative radio spots, kind of celebration of nurturing fatherhood that
7. Chevannes B (2001) Learning to be a man: culture, Planning Institute of Jamaica defending against the blanket negative images helps advance these qualities as self-enhancing
socialisation and gender identity in some Caribbean 17. Chevannes B (1999) What we sow and what of Jamaican fathers that prevailed. Twice, with for men. They are optimistic that in the year of
communities; University of the West Indies, Jamaica we reap: Problems in the cultivation of male external funding, they sponsored exchange their 10th anniversary, they will find some
8. The ‘Men Against Violence Against Women’ group, identity in Jamaica; Grace Kennedy Foundation visits: one with representatives from St. Lucia’s longer-term solutions to their organisational
founded in 1996 Lecture Series
longstanding Mothers and Fathers weaknesses, so that they can continue calling
9. University workshops/seminars: a) ‘Family and 18. Evans H (1999) Gender and achievement in
organisations; the second a seminar tour for and celebrating responsible, caring
quality of gender relations’ (1997) University of the Secondary Education in Jamaica; Planning
featuring two African ethnographers from fatherhood.
West Indies, Mona; b) ‘The construction of Institute of Jamaica
Cameroon and Kenya, talking about fatherhood
in those countries. One year they sponsored a
major musical concert to mark Father’s Day.
The father in San culture:
oral histories from Botswana and Namibia
Willemien le Roux

For 12 years, the author worked in different positions with the Kuru Development Trust, the last eight
years as Training Coordinator. Kuru is a community-owned development organisation for mostly San
people1. Towards the end of her time with Kuru, she undertook a study on the educational situation of
San children in Southern Africa, interviewing many community members in Botswana and Namibia.
San people from each of the various language groups worked closely with her on the interviews, and
also on formulating the conclusions. Among these collaborators was Kamana Phetso, one of the most
prominent young leaders of the San in Botswana. He had been with Kuru since 1992, and was
Secretary of the Kuru Board for the past six years. Tragically, he was killed in a car crash in January
2001, on the eve of his departure to Australia to work with an aboriginal programme for a year.

This article shows the real challenges that face parents and children in environments that constrain
and devalue them, and that also weaken ancient practices and beliefs that have traditionally provided
positive support for the healthy development of their children. A number of clear themes run through
the article. These include: the interface of San children with the education system and the clashes that
result; and the differences between San and non-San with respect to discipline.

Willemien le Roux is currently coordinating an oral testimony programme with the San people for
2, assisting community members to use tape recorders to record their own and their families’
experiences and thoughts about a range of topics, many of which they suggest themselves. For her, an
important aspect of the collecting is to take this information back to the communities. The programme
therefore includes workshops and other devices to allow people to reflect on who they are so they can
inform their own decisions.

Botswana: San children dancing

photo: Willemien Le Roux, Kuru Development Trust
The people were sitting in a circle The five children in this family, ranging but we know we are Basarwa since all most of the male dominated cultures
outside their hut, a small fire burning in from six months to fifteen years other people progress, but not us’. around them, would have been passed
the centre. At a quick glance they approximately, were sitting among the on to the women with condescending
looked no different from the people in adults as we were going through our Kamana and I looked at each other grunts.
the other huts in the small village questions. A toddler of about four years again. Sad as her words were, showing
around them, homes we had been was putting more wood on the fire to such utter desperation, it was clear that In certain areas we asked about the role
visiting all morning. But my colleague help his father, who was cooking in a they had not completely lost their of the father in the upbringing of the
Kamana Phetso’s eyes met mine and three legged pot. The pot was obviously culture. One of the features of the San child. Mostly regret accompanied the
we smiled. too small for the whole group. The man culture we had come across all over the stories that followed. ‘This is how it was
was stirring the soft porridge with a trips to several San groups, had been in the old days, but we do not manage it
We had found them. We had been wooden three-pronged fork. While he the distinct role of the father in the any more’. The !Xõo and Naro people in
looking for the past few days for the was doing this, the four year old leaned upbringing and care of the children. the Aminuis reserve in Omaheke
remaining San people in this area, the against his father watching their meal Another has been the equality of men district, Namibia, gave long accounts of
Eastern side of Botswana, as part of a cook, his arm around the man’s neck. and women – a consequence of the importance of their fathers’
research project funded by the Bernard The baby was suckling her mother’s women’s historical importance as food teaching, especially for young boys.
van Leer Foundation, in collaboration breast, while an aunt and possibly a gatherers in the days when the San
with Kuru Development Trust and the grandmother were watching. We were people roamed free. Although there There was a time when the fathers
regional San organisation, . all sitting on the ground, the women were specific tasks in food gathering taught their sons about living in the
squatting in that remarkably lithe pose assigned to men and women, things like bush. It was almost like giving a
In the other parts of southern Africa it typical to San women everywhere, daily chores and raising children were course to a young man ... The young
had not been as difficult to interview knees bent outwards alongside their shared more equally. Many things are people stopped wanting these courses.
and meet San people as here, for their bodies with skirts tucked in between changing in the San’s lives and these Today that time is over. Now we
languages and culture are quite distinct their legs. special features are under threat in most realise the importance of traditional
and they live in either government areas, due to the influence of stronger knowledge, and ‘though we should
determined resettlement areas, or in We asked: ‘You and the other people and more powerful groups who have make an effort to retain as much as we
conservation or nature areas. But here here say you are the Basarwa3. But why moved into their areas. Yet, even in can for our children, some of the
in the east, the San have mostly lost is that, since you speak the same areas where men had started to play a power of that knowledge is lost. (!Xõo
their languages and have almost language as the other people?’ bigger political role than women, we man, Aminuis Corridor, Namibia)
completely integrated with the Tswana still observed the free interaction of
and Kgalagadi groups around them, ‘We are Basarwa because we are poor’. children and fathers, and the ease with In D’Kar in Botswana as well as in the
so the distinction was not that easy The younger woman answered. ‘We have which fathers do certain tasks in caring Rietfontein area in Omaheke, Namibia,
to make. long lost our language and our culture, for young children – things which, in we were told about the important role

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 39 Early Childhood Matters

Botswana: San parent and child at a traditional dance festival in D'Kar
(Bokamoso promotes traditional dancing in all preschools that take part
in its training programme)
photo: Mattias Hofer

normally do. If you did not listen to in order to draw a hypothesis on the
these taboos, you were responsible for basis of which further action could be
the downfall of everybody, and judged. ‘Look at this spoor. Can you
everyone cared for the well-being of guess how old it is? How far would the
the whole group. (Naro San man, animal be ahead of us?’ The consequent
Aminuis Corridor, Namibia) finding and killing of the animal
tracked, would prove the hypothesis or
The cornerstones of San traditional qualify it, making an indelible
education were experiential learning impression on the participating child’s
and observation, integrating the child mind. Little boys were allowed to
in every aspect of life. The San child, experiment with hunting by setting
even as young as two years old, would snares, using tiny bows and arrows to
be allowed to experiment with what kill mice, birds, and so on. When they
many other cultures view as dangerous were old enough, they would use arrows
objects, such as fire, knives, and needles. with poison, an act that would also
The adults would always be close by, announce the advent of manhood
however, and would either be busy with and be celebrated by all, by praising
the same activity alongside the child, the young hunter's skill with song
demonstrating care, or would be and dance.
encouraging the child verbally on how
to handle such items without Although a distinction was made
endangering themselves. The father’s between the father’s and the mother’s
craft making (bows and arrows, axes, teaching roles where boys and girls were
of the father with regard to discipline or disapproval which could result in leather work, wooden tools or crafts) concerned, in the past this distinction
behavioural instruction. There were ostracism. would be copied by the boys, while the only concerned the food-gathering
exceptions, especially in more mother’s beadwork, preparation of wild activities. It was based on the division
integrated societies, but the majority of Discipline had to do with the laws of food, thatching or clay building would of skills needed for survival in an often
the San people interviewed still vowed nature. Some children were not be copied by girls of all ages. hostile and harsh environment: the
that corporal punishment was allowed to eat certain berries and most effective use of energy and human
undesirable. They said that disciplinary roots, so that nature would keep on The child’s ‘lessons’ consisted of resources was an issue of life and death.
methods were based on community providing. If these laws were broken, discussions with adults on equal Today, many San people emphasise the
approval of good behaviour, and group the rains would not come as they grounds, analysing a practical situation importance of story telling, dance and

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 40 Early Childhood Matters

games as part of their education, and always. (Naro San man, Donkerbos,
the important role of the father in
these activities for both boys and girls.
Traditionally, San culture generally did
“ ... the best caregiver is the natural caregiver –
what is the role of parents and caregivers in
supporting development of learning in

We were informed that the father’s role

not even have the same taboos in many San cultures can also be
following child birth, found in many children? We should not forget that 4 extended to the oldest uncle on the
other African cultures. For example, a
San man had immediate access to the
new-born infant and bonding took
place from an early stage. This kind of different disciplinary systems of the

‘What then would San parents do if a
mother’s side.

The child knows that the mother and

father do not even have the last word
flexibility and interchangability of roles cultures they are moving into cause child misbehaves, or refuses to adhere and that the uncle is there. He is not
was necessary in a hunting and conflict and confusion, and many cases to the norms of society?’ We asked in only the child’s protector, but if the
gathering culture, since mobility was of of the drop-out reported to the research various interviews. child has problems, he knows that the
utmost importance. Everyone needed to team were related to that issue. In other uncle will be the final one to discipline
help carry (goods, children) and cultures the father especially is seen as We know this can happen. And him. (San woman, D’Kar, Botswana)
everyone needed to help find food the one to instil fear and obedience in sometimes the mother of such a child
when on the move (see Draper and such ‘problem’ children using corporal does not find it easy to teach the child The purpose of the above mentioned
Harpending, 1987 and Biesele, 1993). punishment. That means that there are how to be a good member of our research was to compare progress in
Another reason for this more flexible expectations in these other cultures for society. Often the mother as well as the formal education among all of the more
environment in childrearing had to do the San father to play such a role and father of such a difficult child protect than ten San groups in the whole region
with the fact that homes were never pressure is put on them to develop this the child. Then they need other people of southern Africa. Children dropping
permanent structures, and in a mobile responsibility in forums such as parent- in their group to help them. (Ju’/hoan out of school at various stages, but
lifestyle there were also no doors to teacher associations. But this fails to San elder, Mogotho, Botswana) especially in the early years (between
exclude children from adult talk take into account the role of the wider four and eight) as well as the puberty
or activities. San society. I was very naughty when I was small. years (11-14) still remains one of the
Then I was assigned to my most disturbing phenomena of modern
However, since they were treated in To test these perceptions and to grandfather. He kept me next to him San society. It reflects how the
such a free and equal way since early measure the changes in today's San all the time. He kept me from doing deterioration of their social structures
childhood, San children in today’s societies with regard to the father's role wrong things, all the time until I and the alienating systems of education
mixed societies are often perceived to be in disciplining his children, we spent became like a human being. I did not (their only option by which to join the
unruly and undisciplined by teachers much time on these issues during our change immediately, but he made sure changing economy around them) affect
and caregivers of other groups. The interviews. that he knew what I was doing, the general progress of San children.

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 41 Early Childhood Matters

The report of the research, called Torn their families (construction, cattle In a large number of cases, women have expectations were so much part of
Apart – San children as change agents in herding, road labour) because unskilled become single parents due to casual ordinary living, integrated in the total
a process of acculturation 5 shows that labour needs in the remote areas relationships with men from other society, that San mothers as well as the
San parents generally supported the where most San live still favour men groups who are either passing by or extended family members now find it
idea of formal education for their above women. have come to do temporary work in the hard to identify the specific areas where
children as a means of assisting their areas where the San live, but who have the father’s absence leaves a gap to be
people to bridge the gap between their This changing economic situation of no intention of marrying a San woman filled by others.
old lifestyle and the modern world they San people all over southern African or of taking responsibility for children
were entering into. However, they were has brought about the unfortunate born from such relationships. This is In the few cases where San children
torn between this need and the fact that separation of children from their due to the low economic and social were found to have succeeded in
this same education that they needed parents, but more especially their status of the San everywhere, which not modern education, it was striking how
for survival was alienating children fathers. In addition, the nature of the only relates to their present poverty the father's influence was mentioned as
from their parents and their culture. manual labour that many San men situation, but also to their hunter- playing a role in the child's success. The
revert to for an income is such that the gatherer past, a profession which has following two examples show this.
In addition, educators and extension children can no longer share these tasks. always been scorned by pastoralists or
workers who wanted to facilitate change The nature of paid employment also agriculturalists. This attitude towards 1. Masego Nkelekang comes from the
for the San people, saw children as an clashes with leisure time and the ability the San has contributed greatly to their village of Mancotae, in the Nata area
entry point into San culture. Many of fathers to decide how to fill their present economic disadvantage: they in Northern Botswana. She speaks
children dealt with the pressure from time, and this also makes it more lost their land, since they were not seen Chire-Chire, a dialect of the Shua
both sides by dropping out, thereby difficult for them to adapt their tasks to to be ‘using’ the land in a legitimate way. people. Until the end of 2000 she
showing their resistance to both the their children’s needs. worked as a fieldwork-coordinator
foreign and often hostile environment San mothers find themselves for Kuru Development Trust in
they were forced to enter, as well as to The new economic situation and unprepared for the responsibilities of D'Kar, Ghanzi. She finished her first
their parents’ expectations of them as structural changes in the San’s single parenthood, and for raising degree at the University of Botswana
change agents. environment, have also severed the children without the support of a man and is currently studying for her
extended family groups of the past. or even the wider family group. Many Masters degree in Britain.
One of the main reasons for the lack of These fast changes are due to the new of their previous educational practices
control parents seemed to have over sedentary life caused by loss of land, were not identified as education per se, In her primary school years, most
their children dropping out of school, border construction and resettlement but accepted as part of the act of other children were also San. She
was the diminishing role of the father as schemes. These have divided families growing up, and were not necessarily started experiencing discrimination
educator. In many cases fathers have and forced people to abandon their the mother’s task. Learning new skills against her only when she had to
been forced to accept jobs away from hunting and gathering ways of the past. and adapting to behavioural leave her village to go to Junior

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 42 Early Childhood Matters

Secondary School, where she found of Education. He graduated from were seriously harassed by the by many San parents. Outsiders who
that everyone despised the San Max Mukushi School, but his family Mbukushu learners, stood together work with San people believe that they
children and therefore some children originated from the village of Buada and organised themselves. They did have ‘lost all control over their children’.
preferred not to disclose their origin. in West Caprivi. performances from their own Indeed many San parents have reported
Some of the San children performed tradition in the hostel and when that they had started to revert to
better than the oppressors, however, After the first school break, Tienie volleyball teams were introduced corporal punishment, or worse, that
and that helped build their self- and some other boys ran away from they worked hard at being better they condone separation from their
esteem and gave them endurance. school. He stayed away for a year. than the others. Other problems children by sending them to hostels at a
Even though his father, the Headman were caused by teachers who were very tender age; or that they even allow
In her early school years, her parents of Omega, asked him to return, he not serious about their work. He said their children to be ‘adopted’ by
had to pay for most of her expenses. did not force him, but continued some were only interested in status wealthier and more progressive people
Masego ascribes her success in school with his traditional education, such and money and instead of trying to as the best way to educate them for the
to the support she received from her as telling the children parables with encourage the learners or gain their new world they are entering. The
parents, in particular her father. He animal characters and taking the respect, they become over-friendly increase of alcohol and drug abuse
is not a literate man, but has always boys along when he hunted with and in some cases even use older among both San men and women – one
been very persistent that they should spear and dogs. There were other boys as mediators to get them girls. of the evils of transition and
finish school. He checked her children who stayed with Tienie’s resettlement in all San societies – has
progress with the school authorities parents for the sake of school His biggest concern is that Kxoe also taken its toll on the education and
and every term he studied their because their homes were too far. culture is not passed on enough by care of children. This is used to
school reports carefully, asking This made him go back to school the school system. The youth are strengthen the case of those who see
someone who could read to tell him again. angry with their parents for not separation of San children from their
about every subject, and wanting to having enough money and they feel parents as the best solution for the
know if they did not do well. He is His father's desire that he should go a sense of loss for the things in their acquisition of modern education. It is
presently Vice-Chair of the Parent- to school and his support from culture that are vanishing. (from an disturbing that these practices have
Teacher Association and serves on home, as well as role models – a interview conducted by Steve Felton, such profound echoes of the history of
the School Committee. (from the student from the polytechnic and the as part of the research for the Aboriginal and Native American
book Torn Apart – San children as San headmaster at Omega who has / film Torn Apart) children. Although it is now widely
change agents in a process of since passed away – inspired him to acknowledged how detrimental the
acculturation – see note 1) continue in spite of hardships. His But despite these examples, the separation of these children from their
devout Christian belief also gave him responsibilities of educating San cultures has been, it seems to be
2. Tienie Mushavanga is a 22-year old courage. The San learners at Senior children in these transitional societies repeating itself in Africa without too
Kxoe student at the Caprivi College Secondary, who were a minority and are most often met with bewilderment much resistance.

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 43 Early Childhood Matters

To try to address these realities among people realise the value of what they May the practitioners and policy acculturation, by Willemien le Roux (see note 4
at least some of the San people, the have always had. Many choose modern makers in education of the future allow below).
Kuru Development Trust was education as the preferable option for us to learn from the San, and better More information about the Kuru Development
established in the early 1980s with their children and are suspicious that still, allow and assist the San to Trust is available from
support from outside donors, including efforts to re-introduce traditional integrate their old customs with http://kalaharipeoples.org/documents/Kuru-san
the Bernard van Leer Foundation knowledge, or even mother-tongue modern education, and show us how
(Bram le Roux 1998). The Trust is a education, are ways to ‘keep us behind’. the task can be divided among all
community-owned development members of our society, including the notes
organisation with a holistic approach to There is a long way to go and the fathers, grandfathers and uncles! " 1. The word ‘San’ is used as an interim term to
development and a range of interlinked situation of the San people is indeed describe all the groups. It was accepted by the 
and interdependent activities. These sad, if one considers their progressive Bibliography Annual General Assembly in 1997
include: income generating projects; a educational practices of the past 2.  stands for the Working Group of
savings and loan scheme; cultural (Heckler, 1999). However, there is no Biesele M (1993) Women like Meat; Indiana State Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa, a
activities; and a training programme. turning back for the San people. The University Press, Indianapolis,  regionally represented networking organisation with
A preschool project – the Bokamoso pre-conditions for the ideal principles Draper P and Harpending H (1987) Parent its head office in Windhoek, Namibia. More
Preschool Programme – has been of San education do not exist anymore; Investment and the Child’s Environment; in Lancaster information is available from
established through the training and modern life has taken its toll on the et al (eds) Biosocial Perspectives on Human http://www.san.org.za/wimsa
programme. This includes mother- once important role of the father in Parenting; Aldine de Gruyter; New York,  3. ‘Basarwa’ (in Botswana) or ‘Bushman’ are examples
tongue community members being childrearing. It has also become crucial Heckler M (1999) Oh Place where we have played, stay of some of the names used for these people. They
trained as preschool teachers; and for San people to acquire literacy and well: an indigenous learning environment actually prefer to call themselves by the name of their
communities being supported in other gifts of modern education, and (unpublished) own language groups – for example: Ju’/hoansi, !Xõo
establishing and running their own they have no choice but to adapt to the Shostak M (1981) Nisa, the life and words of a !Kung or Naro
preschools. The point is to restore demands of modern economy and woman; Harvard university Press; Harvard,  4. Le Roux W (1999) Torn apart: San children as
respect for age-old San childrearing political conditions. Le Roux B (1998) Community-owned development change agents in a process of acculturation; ,
values and methods to children’s lives. among the marginalised San communities of the Namibia
But this is not by slavish adherence to One cannot help but regret how much Kalahari; Bernard van Leer Foundation; The 5. Le Roux W (1999) op cit
traditional beliefs and practices but by richer the world would have been if the Netherlands. Single copies are available free on
adaptation to current realities, values San had been allowed to educate us all request from the addresses shown on the inside
and methods that modern education on how to integrate the principles of cover.
theories are rediscovering. One of the acquiring knowledge into the wider An extensive bibliography that is also relevant to the
most challenging areas of this realms of our daily lives, instead of subject matter of this article is included in Torn
programme is, however, to make San separating education from daily life. apart: San children as change agents in a process of
Botswana: At a traditional dance
photo: Willemien Le Roux, Kuru Development Trust

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 44 Early Childhood Matters

Helping fathers find their roles:
an exercise from Southern Africa
Margaret Irvine

This contribution has been reprinted from Materials needed 5. All the presentations are
Early childhood education: a training Group 1: paper and crayons; recorded by the groups
manual by Margaret Irvine, published in Group 2: case study written on paper; and, after all presentations
1999 by the Bernard van Leer Group 3: case study written on paper; have been made, a general
Foundation/ Group 4: written instructions for a drama discussion is opened and a
(http://www.unesco.org/general/eng/publish). to act out; synthesis of the learning is
The manual grew out of training events Group 5: board game (see instructions for made.
conducted within the ‘Early childhood joint making and playing); flip-chart, paper and
training initiative’ in Africa, conducted by pens. Watch points
the Foundation, ,  and Save 1. This activity is especially
the Children . The initiative aimed to Methods used designed for groups of
train cadres of trainers who, in their turn, • group work of different kinds; fathers, but can be
would train early childhood practitioners. • plenary discussion. adapted for use with
All the activities described in Early Steps 2. Be aware of participants’
childhood education: a training manual 1. The facilitator introduces the topic and cultural beliefs and
were tested over a period of three years at asks the participants to state briefly how customs and ensure that
international level within the Joint Training they see fathers behaving towards their this sensitive subject is
Initiative, at country level with national young children. Responses are written handled in a way that will
early childhood trainers, and with early quickly on flip-chart paper. lead to honest and
childhood practitioners at family and 2. Groups synthesise these comments into a supportive discussion.
programme level. This extract covers an statement of their experience of the 3. Positive perceptions about
exercise with fathers to help them to opportunities and challenges facing them. behaviour can be used to
understand and develop their childrearing 3. Participants form five groups and the discuss and possibly change negative age, together with the mother who is
roles. It was adapted from an original facilitator gives each group an activity to perceptions about fathers’ behaviour. usually the central figure in the baby’s
training session with participants from do (see following five group activities). early months.
Namibia. 4. Each group is asked to report back on Key learning points on the role of fathers 2. Some interactions that do take place
the findings of their group, except for in early childhood development between fathers and young children
Objective Group 4, which presents the drama to 1. The father is a very important figure in include (in Africa for instance) the
To identify effective ways to encourage the group and the questions for the life of the baby and young child, and following:
fathers to be more involved in early discussion after all the other reports there is a need for strong ties to be - fathers and other male relatives assist
childhood development. back have been made. developed between them from an early in socialising male children;

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 46 Early Childhood Matters

- grandfathers and older males transmit individuals and as groups; of the things you would need to do to - If you had a choice of giving any of
values and social mores; - assisting in the formation of support ensure a healthy pregnancy and baby. the three following foods to your
- men teach young children relevant life groups; child, which would you choose and
skills such as the identification of - appealing to men’s self-concept as an Group 4: A drama: ‘The pregnant mother’ why? Chips, eggs, fizzy drink, meat,
cattle patterns, plants, landmarks, integral part of the family unit; The group prepares to act out the following sweets, bread, milk, porridge.
weather, etc; - actively involving parents and script for the participants: - Name one thing you can do to protect
- fathers and male relatives collect and grandparents of both sexes in ‘A pregnant mother is working non-stop, your child from disease.
relate folk tales, proverbs, family learning, teaching and ensuring that fetching water, cooking, taking care of the - What is the most important thing to
history, kinship and extended both sexes take on positions of other small children, cleaning. The father is give your child if he or she has
community relationships; responsibility; sitting chatting with some other men, diarrhoea?
- men help to construct buildings and - encouraging men who are caring reading and drinking (at one point he takes - At what age do you think that children
equipment, and help to produce fathers and participants in family life a nap). When he needs anything, he asks the start to learn and to use their brains?
learning materials. to act as role models; pregnant mother. She brings everything to - Can you think of another way other
- emphasising equality, cooperation and him, and continues with her work. As soon than beating to discipline your child?
3. Perceptions and beliefs about the role of respect in the curriculum. as she wants to rest, someone calls and - What do you think children gain from
the man and the father in the family and (Source: Bernard van Leer Newsletter, demands something from her. The father playing?
society can often prevent him taking a No. 65, January 1992) calls for his dinner. The woman looks - In what ways can you assist your
full and natural role in the upbringing extremely tired.’ pregnant wife?
of his young children: he may not only Group activities - As a father, what are some ways in
believe that young children are not his Group 1: A Poster Questions to ask the participants are: which you can support your child’s
primary responsibility, but be supported What is the most important message you as - What do you see happening here? growth and development?
in this belief by the women and mothers a father can give to another father? - Why do you think it is happening?
themselves. Make a poster to illustrate the message in a - What are the effects when this happens Rules for playing the game
4. Since babies and toddlers are seen as way most likely to attract fathers. in your environment? Each person takes a turn to roll the dice
‘belonging to’ their mothers and other - What can we do about it? and pick up a card.
women, fathers are perceived as distant Group 2: Women’s work! If the answer is correct according to the
figures even when living in the same If tomorrow all the women in your Group 5: A board game ‘For fathers only’ members of the group, you can move
home. Their task is to punish wrong- community disappeared, how would you, Make a board with twenty blocks marked 1 forward according to the number on the
doing. as a man, run your household and look to 20. dice.
5. Some strategies that would recognise after the children? What would you do? Block 1 is also marked ‘Start’ and block 20 is If, according to the group, your answer is
and reinforce the traditional role of the Make a list of the activities you would need marked ‘Finish’. wrong, you remain where you are. The first
father while at the same time identifying to do from the morning to the evening. Each block can be decorated with a picture person to reach the ‘finish block’ wins. "
and encouraging new mutually of fathers and children.
acceptable behaviour include: Group 3: Problem-solving
- enabling both men and women to be If you were a pregnant woman, what do Make twenty cards with a question about
self-confident and assertive as you think your needs would be? Make a list childrearing practice on each, for example:

B er nard van Leer Foundat ion 47 Early Childhood Matters