Many companies are now starting to adopt policies granting longer paid leave for new fathers, which should be a sign of progress. But many men are still faced with societal pressures to put their career ahead of their family, and they choose to work instead of spending time with their newborns. What should we do about this?
This article shows that it is in the best interest of children when their parents break down gender roles. When the father takes on a more caretaking role, the child is less likely to develop behavioral and emotional problems, and will also grow up without rigid views of gender.
This is a very nice article illustrating how international organizations like Promundo, and Sonke Gender Justice, as well as the campaign MenCare, engage fathers in the quest for gender equality. MenCare, despite being less than 2 years old, works in 16 countries, showing that work with men on gender issues is gaining momentum, and that there is a profound need for this kind of work.
While initiatives to empower women are on the rise, a city NGO has taken up the work of sensitising the opposite sex as well. Bapanchi Shala, a gender sensitisation campaign aimed at men, aims to challenge traditional notions of masculinity and to encourage men to be better fathers to their daughters, gentler role models for their sons and to respect women in general.
Ten NGOs from different cities of Maharashtra have come together to develop this campaign in September 2012. In Pune, the NGO Samyak carries out the campaign in urban slum areas such as Tukainagar, Meena Tai Thakre Vasahat, Ambedkarnagar and Savitri Nagar, while the Nari Samata Manch is in charge of villages in the fringe areas of Pune.
A groundbreaking paternity leave policy at Yahoo, where new fathers are given 8 weeks of paid leave. As FEM questions appropriate division of labor in Indian households, this policy could transform the way families think about the role of fathers as caregivers.
MenCare made this inspiring short film about Steven of Sri Lanka, who took on an active parenting role after his wife went abroad for work. Seeing Steven ignore the demands of patriarchy for the betterment of his family is something we can all learn from.
I got an opportunity to participate in a meeting on the issue of fatherhood study in India. I came to know that MenEngage South Asia and Save the Children are also interested in such a study. As far as the fatherhood study is concerned, I think participants/ partners who are involved in responsible fatherhood campaign should write about their own experiences as well as initiate some kind of documentation from their own children – the experience sharing has to start from `ourselves’.
My second concern is about the meaning of `fatherhood’ – how are we defining this? The western society has gone through a transition- from joint-feudal-patriarchal family to nuclear-patriarchal family and in some cases feminist family. Thus, for the western society- a nuclear family or single head family is a common thing and thus, the role of men as fathers becomes very critical in children’s development. The Indian society is passing through this transition but still has its roots in joint-feudal-patriarchal family set-up and in such a situation a single man may not be responsible for fatherhood- the uncles become very important and so we need to have a relook at this. Secondly, whilst we talk about men’s involvement in child caring, we have no clear understanding of what women think about this. My experience tells me that women would like to preserve spaces they have created through struggle against patriarchal family set-ups and would like to preserve the same here. Have we ever thought of this? My experience whilst working for the CHSJ project in Maharashtra tells me that in the name of `helping women’, men are actually curtailing the mobility of women. For example, men have started taking up the responsibility of going to the haat / bazar for daily shopping (which was traditionally done by women) and thus, women have started losing the opportunity to meet other women and interact with them – I can give many examples that have emerged through this project.
My intention of writing this, is to spread the word of caution – let us not initiate something that may in ultimate analysis becomes counterproductive to gender equality.
By Subhash Mendhapurkar