I am writing this blog from a stunning villa in Umbria, looking out on the ancient city of Todi, which at this moment emerges from an ocean of mist like an island. My three young children are at home in Australia with my husband, their father. Sadly, having just relocated our family across the world, we felt incapable of enduring the torture of another long-haul flight with three kids and weeks of jetlag to enjoy this moment as a family. My husband gallantly volunteered to stay home so I could still be a bridesmaid at one of my most beloved friend's wedding. What a gift.
I am the primary income earner in our family, and my amazing husband is the primary carer of our children; a four-year-old and 18 month old twins. He does all the messy, repetitive, exhaustingly relentless work that is childcare. And in the midst of the food strewn on the floor, the endless picking up of toys, desperately trying to find that missing shoe, or stop someone catapulting themselves off a table, there are moments of joy and laughter. Because of the love and effort that my husband puts into being a hands-on father, he has a profound bond and unique relationship with each of our children. They turn to their father, not only their mother, for comfort when they have hurt themselves, or to show-off their latest trick of standing on one leg. This is beautiful to behold.
Unfortunately, my husband is a rarity. While some men are taking more responsibility for care giving, women all over the world still spend between one and three more hours a day on housework than men and two to 10 times as much time on caring for a child or older person. Even when fathers are involved in the household, it is usually doing the fun things such as taking a child out, or playing with them, rather than taking responsibility for the chaotic business involved in running a home and caring for a family.
Each year Save the Children produce a State of the World's Mothers report and UNICEF a State of the World's Children report, which closely examines key issues affecting mothers and children respectively, yet there has been no comparable report that brings together similar international data and information about fathers and fatherhood - until now. Today the State of the World's Fathers, which is published by The MenCare Campaign (Promundo, Sonke Gender Justice, Save the Children, Rutgers, and the MenEngage Alliance), was released.
Four out of five men will become fathers at some point in their lives. And most others will play a role in a child's life. That is why this report is needed; to bring fathers firmly into the picture. The report found that the fact that men and boys do not value caregiving and unpaid work and do not participate equally in the home underpins rigid ideas about gender and all the corresponding harm that this brings to women, to children and society.
Report author and feminist Nikki van de Gaag says, "...it is one of the reasons why women are still regarded as second class citizens in so many places, why they only make up 21.8 per cent of parliamentarians globally and head only 24 of America's top 500 companies, and why girls are pulled out of school."
Recent reviews of the evidence also show that the global epidemic of violence against women is related in part to violent parenting practices and harmful examples of manhood that children learn to model. To end violence and create equality in this world we need a fatherhood revolution. We need a new model of manhood that is truly equitable with women in all aspects of life. This will benefit all: women, children and not least of all, men themselves.
State of the World's Fathers is out now: www.sowf.men-care.org
Follow the What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls programme here: www.whatworks.co.za