Fatherlessness is predominantly the result of absence rather than death in numerous countries, including Namibia.
In such cases, men often fail to take responsibility for their children, either immediately after conception or after a collapse in marital relations, British High Commissioner to Namibia, Charles Moore, said during the high-level panel discussion on the theme 'Fatherlessness in Namibia' and how it affects both individuals and society.
The panel discussion, organised by the Hanns Seidel Foundation with the assistance of the British High Commission, took place in Windhoek last week.
Moore stated that fatherlessness is not just a problem for Namibia, but for the United Kingdom as well, where it is more likely that parental responsibility has been rejected, rather than fathers being absent because they choose to live and work away from home.
“Fatherlessness cannot be blamed on governments: it’s entirely our own fault. It’s about our own individual beliefs and experiences, often brought about by a change in society and tradition,” he said.
Meanwhile, James Itana, the Executive Director of the Regain Trust, said the emotional gap between fathers and their children could be attributed to the gap that arises at childbirth. Itana noted that men, particularly in traditional settings, are advised to remain on the sidelines while the mother spends the majority of the time with the newborns.
Itana said many Namibian men are unable to emotionally connect with their children because they have been denied the ability to do so since birth.
“It is essential to engage with the boy-child to try and shift the narrative that has been established that guys can’t be emotional with their children when they’re born, or that it’s the role of women to care for the child when they’re born,” he said.
He advocated open discussions about paternity leave and said men should not be driven out of maternal spaces because becoming a father is about more than just money.
“Men have been raised to assume fairly traditional views of what it means to be a father, so we must consider if parenthood is nature or nurture. This is a very important conversation that Namibians should have,” he said.
Sister Namibia Programme Coordinator Ndapwa Alweendo stated that while Namibia is not alone when it comes to the issue of fatherlessness and its challenges, access to data may be the most pressing worry.
“Often times, the data that does exist is quite difficult to acquire, making it extremely tough to deconstruct this very significant issue,” she said.
She shared Itana’s comments, noting that debates regarding fatherlessness should be placed in the appropriate context by having conversations about what it means to be a parent, as it entails much more than just having children.
The discussion was aimed at raising awareness of the severity of fatherlessness in Namibia and its effects on people and society, sharing information about institutions responsible for enforcing the law and protecting the rights of women and children, as well as to encourage discussion about aspects of Namibian culture that affect the family structure.
Source: The Namibian Press Agency