Address by Minister of Social Development, Ms Bathabile Dlamini, on the occasion of MenCare Campaign, at the Nike Football Training Centre in Soweto, Johannesburg
11 Aug 2011
Programme Directors, Mbuyiselo Botha and Justice Khumalo;
Founding Director of Instituto Promundo based in Rio de Janeiro, Dr Gary Barker;
Delegates from the United States of America;
Sonke Co-Founder and Member of the Board, Mr Bafana Khumalo;
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is an honour to address you on this important occasion, which signifies an important step towards transforming gender relations in South Africa.
I am particularly pleased that the launch of the MenCare campaign takes place during August, the Women’s Month, to highlight the seriousness of gender equality. We are a country with a rich history in the struggle for equality. This struggle continues from the basis laid many decades ago by our forebearers, including uMama Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Ruth Mompati, Albertina Sisulu, Rahima Moosa and Sophie De Bruyn.
These pathfinders have always envisioned a society free from discrimination, in which all people will have the opportunity and means to realise the full potential – regardless of race, class, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation or geographic location.
Today, we have achieved our democracy and continue to pursue a vision of a united, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa. While many achievements have been recorded in advancing this vision, the reality remains that South Africa is still a patriarchal society. We have done fairly well as a country to ensure women representation in Parliament, Cabinet and other public institutions. This is not the end of the road.
While we have a few elite women who have access to various opportunities, there are many poor women especially in rural and informal settlements, who still lack access to resources. Most of these women still depend on men, especially in the light of income poverty. In many ways, this state of affairs has a huge potential to influence power relations in families.
We acknowledge that there are progressive men in society who deliberately form part of the important agenda against patriarchy.
I am today pleased that we are launching a campaign that will help us increase the number of men who are committed to gender equality. In particular, I'm excited to see so many men with their children. These are exemplary figures that reaffirm our belief that there are already men who live more gender-equitable lives, and are committed to the health and well-being of their children.
Fathers should play an important role in the lives of their children. The recent South African Institute of Race Relations report highlights international and local research that shows that children growing up with a father are at a significant advantage when it comes to educational outcomes, employment prospects, behaviour and future relationships.
It further highlights that girls who grow up with their fathers are more likely to have higher self-esteem, lower levels of risky sexual behaviour and fewer difficulties in forming and maintaining romantic relationships later in life. In addition, they are less likely to have an early pregnancy, to bear children outside of marriage, to marry early, or to get divorced. Among boys, a present and positive father improves educational achievement, self-confidence, social adjustment and behaviour control.
Ladies and gentlemen, South Africa remains one of the countries with high HIV prevalence rate in the world. Fathers have an important role to play in the context of this epidemic, firstly by getting tested to know their status in order to protect their loved ones. Fathers can also support the prevention of transmission of HIV from mother to child by sharing a greater load of household chores, in order for the mother to focus on breast-feeding the child correctly.
As we acknowledge the important role that many fathers play, we recognise that many others are not sufficiently engaged. Too many fathers are absent or play destructive roles in the lives of their children. At the same time, many men continue to abuse their partners, often in front of their children. Some abuse alcohol; some still use corporal punishment; while others refuse to pay maintenance for their children. We have a societal responsibility to promote men’s full involvement in family life.
The status quo is that there is currently no parenting leave for working fathers in South Africa. The absence of paternity leave conveys two problematic messages. Firstly, the fact that only mothers get parenting leave sends a wrong message that child-care is women’s work. Secondly, it sends a powerful message that men cannot parent actively. Both of these unintended messages undermine our efforts to create a more gender equitable society.
We need to think long and hard about paternity leave. Experiences from other parts of the world suggest that parenting leave for men is good for women’s economic advancement. However, we have to educate men and change social norms about parenting so that if men are granted paternity leave, it doesn’t ultimately result in women taking care of both the baby and the man. That’s obviously not what we want.
We applaud the MenCare campaign because up to now, engaging men as caring, involved fathers and caregivers has seldom been the focus of efforts to engage men in gender equality. One often hears of the transmission of abuse and violence from one generation to the next. It is now important to focus on the transmission of care, and on good behaviours between parents and children.
Everyone should applaud the positive benefits to men when they participate as involved and caring fathers. There may be no other area in which men see benefits in changing and embracing gender equality than in their roles as fathers. Men should be encouraged to be proud to be fathers.
As the Department of Social Development, we have developed an Integrated Parenting Framework which embraces issues of parenting by fathers, the impact of absent fathers in the care of children and the important role that fathers can play in families. We have also developed a manual on mediation for conflict resolution in families. The manual covers issues of joint parenting, custody in divorce cases; conflict resolution in relationships within families which have an impact on the development of children.
We have already developed a strategy for the engagement of men and boys in prevention of gender-based violence which is currently implemented in provinces. The aim is to mobilise the active participation of men and boys in programmes that seek to prevent gender-based violence.
We have a partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime through which we together developed the Every Day Heroes Brand for the Victim Empowerment Programme. This brand is comprised of a six cartoon stories (booklets) on domestic violence, human trafficking, sexual assault, abuse of older persons, abuse of people with disabilities and child abuse.
As part of our Victim Empowerment Programme, we are coming up with a gender-based violence prevention programme that will inform the accreditation of such programmes in the country guided by minimum standards.
In conclusion, we recommit to fight against alcohol and substance, because this scourge has a negative impact on families. We further wish to state that corporal punishment is illegal in South Africa and call on civil society to help us educate both men and women about safe and effective alternatives to corporal punishment. I am committed to work together with you to promote and drive policies towards the vision of a South Africa populated by caring and involved fathers.
I want to thank the organisers of today's event: Sonke is a relatively new organisation but it is doing remarkable work here in South Africa and across the globe. Instituto Promundo has long been recognised for their pioneering work. We're excited to be able to launch this event with them and their many civil society partners in the Men Engage network and beyond. It now gives me great pleasure to unveil the symbol that will be used for the MenCare campaign.
Source: Department of Social Development
Issued by: Department of Social Development
11 Aug 2011
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