Case Study (Muslim Fathers): Female Worker Proves Herself with Pakistani Dads Club

21 August 2007

What: YMCA (England)’s ‘Dads and Lads’ Parenting Courses
Where: Youth/community centres and primary schools in Bradford/ Bradford Moor
Funding: Children’s Fund ‘On Track’ crime diversion (filtered into the Children’s Fund); YMCA England (Family Support Grant)

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. 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 ‘.

People the place with men

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.

Capacity building

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.

Working with the fathers has caused the agency to think carefully about engaging successfully with men. ‘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: Geraldine Waugh, tel: 01274 504555

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