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“Any fool can have a child. That doesn’t make you a father. It’s the courage to raise a child that makes you a father.” Those words of former US president Barack Obama are especially apt in South Africa today.
The Father’s Day many of us celebrated yesterday was an ersatz emotion – conjured up by greetings card companies and purveyors of schlock many decades ago – yet, the principle of recognising and honouring fathers should be one applied in a country in which our biggest failing is that our men fail to be fathers.
So many South African men are happy to be “baby daddies”, rather than fathers, heading for the proverbial hills as soon as their girlfriends (and most are not married) reveal they are pregnant.
The attitude seems to be: I’ve had my fun and I’m out of here, because responsibility is going to cramp my style.
The problem with this attitude is that, no matter how clever you think you are, humans are humans – and children growing up will emulate their parents.
If you have a cavalier, disrespectful attitude towards women, your son will follow in your footsteps. And your daughter will possibly continue to look throughout her life for the security and stability you couldn’t offer because you ran away.
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This lack of family cohesion spreads outwards across society, increasing phenomena like teenage pregnancies, single-parent families, drug abuse and gender-based violence.
Poverty does indeed play a major role, too, but many poor people can still raise stable families… so that should never be used as an excuse.
How do we correct this?
Men need to change. Women need to change. But, society at large also has a responsibility – as does our government – to change attitudes through education.
Better fathers mean better families. Better families mean a better country.
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