Hungry for our children’s sake [Press release]

Hungry for our children’s sake [For immediate press release]

Two men have been on a hunger strike for a week now to get the attention of key people to enable access to their children. The one walked 100 km 3 years ago with the same purpose. Now they sit in front of the Department of Social Development offices. #MyKidsMyResponsibility.

Why is it so hard for fathers in this country to be the fathers they want to be?

Fathers’ Network, a network of organisations in the father involvement field across the country, has the vision of flourishing father-child relationships. Gatekeeping, as these two men experience, is a shockingly common practise in South Africa. Mothers and their families become gatekeepers when parents split up and anger and pain lead to the only power tool families think they have – denial of access of the father to the child! Teenage fathers are often not allowed access, because they cannot contribute financially.

A colleague had an alcoholic father. Her mother pushed him out and badmouthed him in front of her children. She was already 50 before she discovered her father in a new way. This was when she realised how her mother misled her. Many children never make such a discovery. But their fatherless experience has a strong influence on how they view the world.

A few years ago 62% of birth certificates had no fathers’ names on them. This is another form of gatekeeping where it states fathers are not of any importance.

Unfortunately it doesn’t stop with mothers and their families. It is as if many judges, lawyers, social workers, psychologists and society in general think the only parent is the mother – and act accordingly. This way of thinking was recently illustrated by a father who attended a parenting course and said in awe: “I never thought I had a role to play as a parent.”

Since when are fathers not parents? Who will open the gate to enable fathers to have access to their children?

A much more important reason for enabling father involvement than the father’s needs and rights, is often forgotten: The Child.

Global studies show that children growing up without fathers tend to be sad – to the point of depression; to live with anger which easily spills over in violence; to feel empty which they try to fill with early sexual activities, substance abuse, gang involvement and criminal activities. They tend to be poor, not reach their potential and have health problems. They do worse academically, socially, emotionally and physically than children whose fathers are positively involved.

This fatherless child becomes a man without fatherhood skills, a woman who keeps fathers away, an adult filled with violent anger and sadness, a teenage father or mother, a person addicted to substance and with a huge chance of being incarcerated. This is the harsh picture of many people in our country. Our newspapers are full of their stories.

Why keeping fathers away?

The organisations within Fathers’ Network, hosted by SAVF FAMNET, calls on the professional people involved to prioritise the enablement of father involvement. We call on the media to support this drive and involve our network members’ stories when reporting. Our urgency is the future of our children and our country.

For more information, please contact Erna Rheeder, erheeder@savf.co.za, 084 383 9417.

Please find a list of our network members’ contact details attached as well. They are the people making the big difference for our children’s sake! #justdadit

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