I barely involve myself in conversations with groups on Sundays –
except the immediate family and of course, on the odd occasion when the
bigger clan demands it – and there is a simple reason for it. I reserve
Sundays for hibernation and reflection in preparation for the week
This was not the case Sunday last (Nov 27, 2011)
and the difference was due to curiosity and interest I had (and hold) in
a high level (almost totally academic) discussion held at the Red
Location Museum on “fatherhood” organized by the Arts department of the
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
I am always
fascinated by the subject and whenever an opportunity presents itself I
make a point of attending to hear what people have to say about
Two US professors A. J Franklin (Boston
College) and wife Nancy Boyd-Franklin (Rutgers University) were in the
mix along our own down here (Dr Jeff Govender, Prof Velile Notshulwana
and Sicelo Duze) banded together to lead the discussion on “what
fatherhood means” in 2011 in South Africa.
The choice of a
museum for the gathering and discussion on a Sunday afternoon seemed an
irony of coincidence and the huge turnout of men (outnumbering women by
11 to 1) seemed to betray both the misunderstanding of the breath and
depth of the topic as well as the intent of the discussion.
so there we were at the Red Location Museum, Sunday afternoon; sharing
our understanding of what it meas to be a father – an examination of
established and perceived truths about the role of men as fathers.
It emerged that:
- fatherhood is a huge responsibility that accords both leadership and servant status to the man and because of it
- fathers have a duty and responsibility to be ever present in
the lives of their children. This implies both a physical and spiritual
presence, first while alive (and living with the children) and later
when they have passed on! “Leave a legacy, leave a mark of fatherhood!”
Was the message.
- fatherhood is not limited to own biological offspring, but men and fathers primarily need to recognize and accept that they also have a duty and responsibility to children of their immediate community
- creating family (biological and otherwise) networks is among critical steps to ensuring the impact and influencing of positive fatherhood within both family and community as well as society at large
- only men can be fathers
and they need to recognize and accept that despite numerous challenges
that confront them, including efforts towards broad empowerment of women
through equality processes. In other words, the empowerment of women
through affirmative action and related, while good, desirable and yet a
challenge to established roles of men and fathers, this needs
accommodation in the reaffirmation of men as fathers both in the
immediate family and in the community at large.
I left as
soon as the discussion lead panel had made its mark and the floor was
beginning to grapple with the direction pointed. By the time I left, I
had set on that chair for close on three hours and for the day, I had
done little of what I do on Sundays!