Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Trusting the journey of fatherhood because fathers matter - Vlakfontein, South Africa

The Trust Building Programme (TBP) decided to honour fathers (June being the month when Father's Day is celebrated), by opening a space for them to discuss, encourage each other and be appreciated.

On 25th June, the Vlakfontein Men's Forum, near Soweto, welcomed this event for 12 men between the ages of 21 and 65 years. It was a cold rainy day.  As we drank coffee together with these fathers, grandfathers and hoping-to-be fathers, we had an informal discussion about the generation gap - teenagers feeling they are man enough to tackle life, earn money and fame and don't need guidance from their parents or elders, and the older generation have feelings of despair and hurt by the perceived disrespect of their ways of doing things.

The objective of this dialogue was to help men understand the importance of communication as an expression tool, and understand that they need to care for themselves as men – as an individuals before their identity of being a father.   This was a challenge as most men struggle with articulating ‘how do they feel?’  One participant said, “I am realizing that I am the one making it hard for people to know me.” When we explored the concept of the book '5 languages of love' by Gary Chapman, this was another time of learning - to realize how one communicates with people in many different ways, not only with words.  One participant expressed, ‘As a result of this time I actually see myself communicating to people through all 5 languages.  I didn’t know I was communicating even though I didn’t use words. I am going home to explore this concept with the family.”

Another activity was to explore the historical timeline lessons of fatherhood, dating back five decades.  An observation from that was that the impact of men leaving home for work to the cities under the migrant labour system, created a culture where today, fathers think that when they provide financially for the development of a child that that is their only role in fatherhood. Secondly, young fathers, when they show their emotions they are considered as being weak and lazy fathers. Thirdly, the downward trend of fathers/men consuming alcohol heavily started decades ago as a coping mechanism for the hurting, grief and traumas they were experiencing being so far from home - the manhood, fatherhood and grand-fatherhood has not been addressed and taken care of in them during all this time.  

The group found joy in creating a new charter for fatherhood that promoted healing themselves, and practising a life of values and self-care at the heart of it.

We took time to look at the child within including a time of silent prayer to forgive the father figure in their lives.  The exercise was divided into three sections:   

1.   The child

2.   The man

3.   The father/hope-to-be father

In conclusion one commented that, ‘I am promising myself to better communicate with myself and others honestly’. This made us see that the concept of inclusive fatherhood is in motion, in this group. We as the TBP  team feel that men are the key for  families to gain a new vision full of hope, change, love and safety.  This will lead to us rebuilding a South Africa that’s a home for all who live in it.

We wish to thank all sponsors, donors, Vlakfontein's mens forum and the community for enabling us to host this event.