SA's Fathers report: Sonke Gender Justice briefing

Joint Multi-party Women’s Caucus

29 November 2018
Chairperson: Ms N Khunou (ANC) (Acting)
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Meeting Summary

The Portfolio Committee on the Multi-Party Women Caucus met to receive briefs from Sonke Gender Justice on the State of SA’s Fathers Report; the Department of Social Development and the Women Ministry on the new South African Integrated Programme of Action Addressing Violence Against Women and Children and to adopt the Legacy Report of the Joint Multi Party Women’s Caucus for the 5th Parliament. However, the briefing on the new South African Integrated Programme of Action Addressing Violence against Women and Children did not take place because the Minister was out of the country. Also, the Legacy Report of the Joint Multi Party Women’s Caucus for the 5th Parliament was not considered due to time constraints.

Highlights of the brief by Sonke Gender Justice on the State of SA’s Fathers Report included what necessitated the report, the provision for parental leave in the Labour Laws amendment Bill, statistics on how children’s residency in households affected children, a synopsis on what fatherhood in the first 1000 days represented, and the recommended leave structure and policy implementation suggestions by SGJ. SGJ apologised to women on behalf of men on the roles played by fathers in violence against women and said it would like to engage with women groups on how to deal with Gender Based Violence (GBV) issues in the society and also participate in programs that would curb GBV.

The Committee showed a keen appreciation for the presentation especially since it acknowledged and reinforced the vital role that fathers can and increasingly do play in childcare. . The Committee encouraged and advised SGJ to present the full research and its interpretation packaged in the form of a book to libraries and urged Members to take the book to their constituencies. The Committee also advised SGJ to address boys and girls in the context of teenage pregnancy and its links to abuse to avert teenage pregnancy and thereby negate the possibility of its abuse.

The Committee asked about the importance of men’s role in  child parenting; respondents in the study; steps to generate consciousness and renew the minds of men, the CSG and how it affected   male caregivers; the 10 day paternity leave; steps to educate boys and young men in fatherhood; societal integration of trained men and SGJ’s influence on boys at pre-school level.

The Committee noted that although SGJ was doing well its voice has not been heard in rape cases. It encouraged SGJ to partner with women constituencies in its programs. The Committee resolved to review its legacy report during the break and use it as a working tool for Members in the 6th Parliament.

Meeting report

The Committee Secretary informed Members that the Chairperson was at the South African Development Community (SADC) forum in Mozambique and proposed the nomination of an Acting Chairperson according to Parliamentary rules.

Ms T Memela (ANC) nominated Ms N Khunou (ANC) as the Acting Chairperson.

Ms N Abraham (ANC) seconded nomination for Ms Khunou as the Acting Chairperson.

The Acting Chairperson, Ms Khunou, welcomed all Members, the team from Sonke Gender Justice (SGJ) and all Members from the civil society groups. She asked everyone present to observe a moment of silence for women who had been raped and killed. She said the meeting was the last meeting of the 5th Parliament for the Committee. Hence women needed to check what they had done right, reflect on weaknesses and correct what had not been done in the right manner. She expressed happiness that women had a Multi-Party Women Caucus that was used to discuss issues that affected women in Parliament. Since Gender Based Violence (GBV) issues were critical women needed to engage with critical government Departments and NGOs in more resourceful ways to find a way to take care of children. She invited the team from Sonke Gender Justice to brief the Committee.

Briefing by Sonke Gender Justice (SGJ)

Mr Andre Levaks, Child Rights and Positive Parenting Manager introduced his team members and apologised for the roles played by fathers in violence against women. He said fathers helped children to get better in life, affect behavioural patterns positively, and the objective of the program was to ensure that fathers did more of the work in caring for children. He appreciated Parliament for assisting with the amendment of laws particularly the law that allowed fathers to have a 10-day paternity leave. He said the report was published as a MenCare Global Fatherhood Campaign publication and cameup after the State of the World’s Fathers reports  was published in 2015. He said the State of the World’s Fathers reports analysed global research on why men’s participation as fathers and caregivers mattered. It affirmed that men’s participation in caregiving was not adequately measured and contributed to new paternity and parental leave policies and bills in Brazil, Australia and the Netherlands, but the State of South Africa’s Fathers report 2018 was the first report. The State of South Africa’s Fathers report facilitates a broader narrative on fatherhood in South Africa (SA), serves as an advocacy document to improve policies and programmes that support father’s involvement and track parents’ use of parental leave. The report addressed the percentage of men that were fathers, and policy timelines for fatherhood in South Africa. He noted that children who grew up without fathers were likely to end up as gangsters. Although the burden of care was on mothers the fatherhood initiative encourages men to be more involved in the burden of care. The statistics on children’s residency by household showed that 20% of children grew up in nuclear families, single parent homes 7%, at least one person not related 2% and 70% lived in homes that had parents, children and other members. 36% lived with biological fathers while 35% lived with an adult man and this scenario highlight the potential caregiving that another man may provide if social fatherhood is encouraged. Statistics show that South Africa had the second largest number of absent fathers. The largest numbers were blacks and coloureds and this is due mainly to the income divide.

Economic migration makes fathers leave family and children for work opportunities; the level of inequality is high and is a threat to children. Hence if the challenges of income and inequality could be addressed children would receive better care. He said it was important for fathers to be present in the first 1000 days of a child’s life and outlined the roles of fathers in the first 1000 days. The education level and emotional health of caregivers, as well as the province of residence, are more influential than the gender of the caregiver in determining household spending on key items. The Labour Laws Amendment Bill allows paid Parental leave of 10 days for parents that do not qualify for maternity leave. Maternity leave remains, with a slight increase in the maximum allocation to 66% of standard leave for parents. He outlined the leave structure recommended by SGJ and the policy implementation suggestions by SGJ. The policy implementation suggestions by SGJ were to enact parental leave provisions, and track parents’ use of leave; continuation of and expansion of men’s use of the CSG; linking of the maintenance system and family plan for separating couples better; to offer more options than money and improving health facility norms and standards to support men’s involvement in maternal and infant health. He said SGJ would like to engage with women groups on how to deal with GBV issues in the society and also participate in programs that would curb GBV.

Discussion

The Acting Chairperson invited Members to ask questions.

Ms N Abraham (ANC) appreciated the presentation and the fact that SGJ showed that fathers could play a vital role in the care of children. She asked SGJ to state the role it played when dealing with men who left children and family because of a lack of commitment. She asked SGJ to state how it would ensure a change in the way of thinking of men.

Ms S Thembekwayo (EFF) asked SGJ to state if it had any way to investigate the effect of the behaviour of men in polygamous marriages and marriages were men  had extra-marital affairs. She noted that apart from male-female relationships, same-sex relationships existed in the country and asked SGJ how it could ensure that male-female relationships and same-sex relationships where involved in child parenting. She asked if SGJ drew its respondents from both urban and rural areas because behaviours in the core rural areas were different from those in urban areas. She also asked if SGJ had investigated why women chose to remain single because of the state of violence in the country.

Ms M Chueu (ANC) said the family was formed based on a structure of a female being oppressed by a male, therefore men need to be educated that women were not commodities. Hence she asked SGJ to state how it proposed to generate consciousness and renew the minds of men since this could not be legislated. Also a consideration of history showed that people were forced to dismantle families hence the spatial framework of the racial divide should be addressed. She asked SGJ how it would involve white males in the discussions on patriarchal violence because it happens within white races as well.

Ms C Majeke (UDM) asked SGJ to state how South African fathers participated in parenting because even when they lived together with the family they did not participate as parenting did not only involve financing the family. She said her experience was that men were not interested in the CSG. It was mostly women because they were interested in the care of the children. She asked SGJ to state what men would use the 10 day paternity leave to do especially when they were not involved in care during pregnancy.

Ms D Raphuti (ANC).appreciated the report by SGJ but noted that the report was more about adult fathers and in South Africa teenage fathers existed more because of the social ills of teenagers. She said the full research and its interpretation packaged in a book by SGJ could be presented to libraries and advised Members to take the book to their constituencies. She advised SGJ to address boys and girls to ensure that teenage pregnancy was averted because teenage pregnancy led to a lot of abuse. She further appreciated SGJ on the information on care that fathers could give to children in the first 1000 days.

The Acting Chairperson invited SGJ to respond.

Mr Suleiman Henry, Child Rights and Positive Parenting Trainer, SGJ implored Members to rethink the issue of absent fathers because fathers had to leave families and children because of jobs. SGJ has been involved in activities to assist boys and young men to be better fathers. SGJ has reached out to respondents in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal rural areas despite funding challenges. Feedback from outreach programmes showed that women were wary of young men who wanted to bath children or cling to children. The concept of the nuclear family is not synchronised with African culture. The phrase in Zulu and isiXhosa which means king or lord of the house needs to be erased. The whip and violence came up with colonialism and this is alien to African culture. Civil society is trapped with working more with poor communities than affluent white or Indian communities and as a result of polarity,  different races do not want to be involved with the challenges of other races. There are not many fathers that accessed the CSG., they did so because they are the only surviving parent and they are mostly committed. Men assist women to bathe, hold and take care of the baby during paternity leave although he agreed that the time men spent with children was not enough. Fathers whether they are teenage or adult need to cater for the needs of the family. The SGJ works out mechanisms to assist fathers to cater for children.

Mr Levaks said SGJ had not done any research yet on its own but made recommendations on data received by Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) in 2017 where children were in co-residence arrangements and lived in households. The data showed some gaps but there is presently no study on same-sex families. There was evidence that showed that  extra-marital affairs are harmful to children. It is obvious that SGJ needs to review the effect of same sex male relationships, teenage fathers and grandfathers on children in a family.

Ms G Tseke (ANC) noted that teenagers have children with foreign nationals because of poverty. Hence she asked if SGJ had engaged with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to ensure that South Africa did not have fatherless children. She also asked if SGJ engaged with male students in high school and universities to ensure that male students know more about fatherhood.

Ms M Nkadimeng (ANC) advised SGJ to present the full research and interpretations on the state of South African fathers to the Committee. She asked SGJ to state if the advocates for paternity leave considered South African homes that had many wives.

Ms X Tom (ANC) noted that Ms Chueu had said  some things such as ‘mind set’, and ‘social interactions’ which could not be legislated. Hence she asked SGJ how it constructed its workshops and training programs. She also asked SGJ to state how the training that was given to men was integrated in society to ensure that women did not perceive men that were involved in household chores as ‘trans-men’.

Ms Memela asked SGJ how it would deal with men irrespective of age who have never been responsible but would produce children.

Ms Chueu said Africa could use the matriarchal theory to bring the family back together. SGJ needs to work with the Gender Commission to enhance its workshops

Ms R Semenya (ANC) said children need to be educated on social media as children seem to be busy. The line of education could involve follow up on what young people face.

The Acting Chairperson asked SGJ to provide clarity on the data on children residency per household. Although SGJ was doing well she noted that its voice has not been heard in rape cases. She asked SGJ to state its influence on boys at pre-school level because behaviour was formed at an early age.

Mr Levaks said the questions and concerns raised showed that the country was a society that needed change but SGJ did not have all the answers. This called for more engagements in future because women were central to GBV and the killing of children. A national strategy on fatherhood exists but it is outdated because it only looks at fatherhood in the nuclear system. A call needs to be made to review the strategy to answer the questions posed by women, and address the needs of women in the society. He agreed that some children did not have fathers and he outlined some strategies to educate children to address the negative trend. SGJ engages with the DBE and has done some work in educating boys on gender norms and transformation programs. The boys trained are in a position to stop other boys from GBV against girls and amongst themselves. SGJ has had some challenges on funding hence it could not print more copies of the book on the state of South Africa’s fathers. The country needs to implement more programs that teach the correct gender norms and values. Women need to engage with men that do not want to be responsible. SGJ has worked with some of the commissions in the past and these programs have recorded some success.

The Acting Chairperson asked SGJ to give its email address to the Committee Secretary as women constituency officers would like to partner with SGJ when it does its programs. She said the Committee was supposed to have a briefing from the Department of Social Development (DSD) but the Minister was out of the country so the briefing would be postponed but the Committee Secretary would circulate the brief to Members when it became available. She asked Members to review the legacy report during the break, noting that the Legacy Report would be used by Members in the 6th Parliament and appreciated Members for always attending meetings.

Ms Thembekwayo said she was of the opinion that Members would reflect on the weaknesses of women and the Legacy Report.

Ms Majeke said that the Acting Chairperson had mentioned that the Legacy Report would be a working tool for Members in the 6th Parliament when Parliament resumed in the New Year.

The Acting Chairperson said that Members should note that if the Committee wanted to engage on the Legacy Report it would be a rush job hence Members should review it over the break.

The meeting was adjourned.

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