I recently read this quote: “A real woman can raise a child by herself, but a real man would never let her!” My immediate reaction was: ‘Wow, what a weighty statement!’ The more I ponder that quote, the more I want to say with profound conviction: “We need more real men in Namibia, so we will have fewer children growing up fatherless!” Fatherlessness is not a new occurrence in Namibia. Already in 2016, the First Lady of Namibia alluded to the phenomenon in one of her public addresses and expressed her concern over the noxious effects thereof.
Fatherlessness is on the rise worldwide, and it is estimated that more than 20 million children in the United States alone live in a home without the physical presence of a father. The estimation for our neighbouring country, South Africa, is half of the children in that country! Equally worrisome is that millions of more children have dads who are physically present in their lives, but who are emotionally absent. Some concerned organisations around the world even suggest that fatherlessness is an epidemic worthy of attention as a national emergency!
Undisputedly, the love and presence of a father bring stability to any home. Yes, many fathers are absent for reasons beyond our control. May we pause here and say that we would like to focus on the fathers who are absent by choice. The ones who deny fathership. The ones who, in the words of a well-known aunty in the Rehoboth community, “went to buy milk but got lost on the way back home.” This is not an attempt to belittle the raising of children by a single mother. It is rather an attempt to re-emphasise the critical role of a father in the upbringing of children. Needless to say, the devastating impact of fatherlessness can be seen everywhere in our communities: in our homes, schools, hospitals and surely in our correctional facilities. In fact, every societal ill can be connected to the phenomenon. Some studies in America suggest that there is an incontestable link between fatherlessness and delinquency, and being so already since the mid-eighteen-hundreds. Some studies even name fatherlessness the root cause of crime. And while we may have to resort to the data from other countries in the absence of our own data, I am of the strong opinion that the situation is not less sombre here on home soil.
So what exactly is fatherlessness? In laymen’s terms, fatherlessness is where a father is absent in the upbringing of his child/children, whether in a physical or emotional capacity. A certain Pat Moynihan already wrote in 1965: “a community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring a stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any rational expectations about the future, that community asks for, and gets…chaos!” Fatherlessness manifests in school drop-outs, violence, rebellion, depression, emotional distress, lower self-esteem, risky sexual behaviour, teenage pregnancies, drug abuse, aggression in boys and so many other social ills. So, how are we supposed to address this “national epidemic?” We need:
Upright men to fill the void of an absent father; men that can love well, expectantly a step-dad, grandfather, uncle, school teacher, sports coach;
Community support programmes where honourable men serve as volunteer mentors to boys;
Hands-on educational programmes that educate on the role of fathers in the upbringing of their children by churches and voluntary organisations;
Upright community sporting activities to enhance male role-modelling.
So, dear father, while your children do need financial and material support to survive in life, they certainly need your physical, emotional and loving presence more. Bring the presents, but be present with the present. Let’s turn around fatherlessness in Namibia.
2019-06-24 10:23:37 2 months ago