Working with Pakistani fathers in Bradford

3 April 2005

Geraldine Waugh, Parenting Project Worker at Bradford YMCA, gets fed up being told ‘you can’t work with men if you’re a woman’. Geraldine not only involves fathers successfully in courses for the parents of young offenders but also works regularly with Asian dads in schools and community settings. ‘Female facilitators need to feel and show the same level of confidence as within a mixed or female only group’ says Geraldine ‘and of course it’is important to have an understanding of Asian culture and not to feel threatened or devalued by Asian Dads either not looking and maintaining eye contact or not shaking the female facilitator’s hand for example.’

She does, however, acknowledge that ‘I don’t necessarily dress as a woman – I notice that I’ll wear trackie bottoms and a T shirt ‘.

Nor does Geraldine believe Asian fathers are necessarily ‘hard to reach’. There’s growing awareness about the need to support their young people – a lot of awareness that the boys are getting involved in crime or not doing well at school. One of the Iman’s getting involved to support the dads to support their kids’.

Like most successful female fathers’ workers, Geraldine has ‘peopled the place with men’. To reach the Asian dads (many of whom had grown up ‘without the love and affection of our fathers, who worked all the time’ and were repeating the pattern) she worked closely with a community leader, asking if he knew suitable dads. He did. The men were mainly from one area in Pakistan, about the same age and worked together. It was a great way to start – and Geraldine started small: just an hour’s workshop and an activity, something they ‘wouldn’t normally feel comfortable with’: bowling, swimming, taking their kids to the cinema. And then Geraldine asked ‘what else would you like included in the workshops . . .?’

The initial stroke of brilliance was to ask local dads to pilot the initiative (‘on behalf of other – more ‘needy’ – fathers in your community’ was implied). One of the fathers soon became Mr Motivator (‘It’s ‘Dads and lads’ tomorrow – what do you mean you can’t make it?’) Gradually the fathers took ownership, with the facilitators becoming the ‘invited guests’. The four pilot sessions proceeded into the full eight week ‘Dads and Lads’ course (although adapted to ‘Dads and Kids’ as girls were involved), then to the follow-on course, then snowballed into other courses with other fathers. Some were found via Learning Mentors at a local primary school, who identified boys with behaviour concerns (including lack of self confidence) and contacted their dads.

Eight courses, reaching more than 100 fathers, have now been held. Had funding not been so scarce, there would have been more, as there’s no shortage of interested fathers. One has trained as a ‘Dads and Lads’ facilitator; others deliver some workshop elements – the beginnings of capacity building and community cohesion. ‘If I had ‘real’ money’ says Geraldine ‘I would develop the course for the dads to take forward themselves, and make it accredited’. This autumn, fathers from one mosque, worried about local lads’ progress, obtained their own funding – and approached YMCA Bradford to run a course for them.

• sporting activities (basketball, rounders, parachute games. ‘kwik cricket’, ‘tag rugby’ and many more)
• visits to the museum (the fathers particularly enjoyed dressing up as Bradford historical figures!)
• McDonald’s
• a day trip to Scarborough
• peer massage (‘very successful’)

• communication
• body language
• boundaries
• saying ‘no’ (and asking why are you are saying no)
• enforcing ‘no’
• supporting children’s literacy other than via the Koran
• developing the father-son relationship
• using similar techniques with colleagues and family
• developing confidence in talking with children’s teachers
• understanding the school system, including the ‘Key Stages’
• challenging choice of school
• becoming confident to use the library and other local services
• having fun

Working with the fathers has also caused the agency to think carefully about developing father-friendly characteristics. ‘It’s important the fathers feel comfortable on the premises. In our new offices we’ve gone for Victorian red and magnolia and grey paint woodwork. One of our male colleagues came in the other day and said: ‘it feels really comfortable here’.

Contact: tel: 01274 504555

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