This Mandela Day, men should recommit to fatherhood

As we come together to recognise again the legacy of the man we call the Father of the Nation, there is no better time for men to recommit following his lead. This is the call Ndinatsei Mumbengegwi, Global Brands Product Manager at Population Services International (PSI), the manufacturers of Trust Condoms, made to South African men for Mandela Month. She says that the epidemic of fatherlessness is at the root of many of the social ills that plague South Africa.

“Fatherless children—and especially fatherless boys—are more likely to become troubled adults. Fatherless homes are typically poorer, and behavioural issues are more likely. These can in turn lead to a greater incidence of drug or alcohol abuse, and poor overall emotional and physical health,” she says. “Individuals raised in this environment do less well at school on average, and teenage pregnancy is more common.

“All of these issues negatively impact individuals and communities, and this pattern tends to repeat itself across the generations.”

The fatherless crisis is worst in America, where almost a quarter of children live in single-parent homes.[1] The problem is less acute overall in this country, but figures from Statistics South Africa indicate that the burden is spread unevenly across population groups. Only 31.7% of black children live with their biological fathers, with the figure at 51.3% for coloured children. The figures are much higher for Asian (86.1%) and whites (80.2%).[2]

Mumbengegwi says that Trust Condoms is so determined to help overcome this complex challenge that it launched a programme to encourage men to become a better version of themselves on Valentine’s Day this year, followed by The Good Men Conference on 28 February. The latter provided a virtual and in person forum for men to share stories and recommit to taking up the fatherhood role.

Trust Condoms is calling on South African men to set an example this Mandela Day. Mumbengegwi says that men who have children should commit to being better fathers by putting aside time to spend with them, and to clean up their acts with their partners and/ or the children’s mother. Men can also join or start a man’s group to share challenges and gain inspiration and support in their journey to become a better man.

Men, especially those who are not fathers, can also play a positive role by offering to mentor fatherless boys—what’s wanted is a role model, and it doesn’t have to be the biological father, she says. Here, even though the fatherlessness crisis is worst in the black population, the group’s strong culture of extended families holds the key to the solution.

“Taking these positive steps has the potential to make a big change in society. Children, especially boys, will learn how to behave, and ultimately we will start to see this intergenerational cycle being broken,” she says. “Madiba pulled off what seemed to be impossible by acting like a father to us all—if our men follow suit, the results will be even more spectacular.”

Ends

[1] Andrew P. Donovan, “10 Insane stats that show the damage of fatherlessness”, Medium (22 July 2022), available at https://medium.com/@apdonovan1990/10-insane-stats-that-show-the-damage-of-fatherlessness-71301cb6b0a0.

[2] Letlhokwa George Mpedi, “The role of fathers and rethinking the concept of fatherlessness”, Daily Maverick(22 June 2023), available at https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2023-06-22-the-role-of-fathers-and-rethinking-the-concept-of-fatherlessness/.