Getting to know each other: MenCare 2013 Global Meeting Day 1

10 June 2013

How can we give children the best possible chance of a loving and positive relationship with their fathers? What levers do we pull, who do we need to engage, and how can we access the resources needed to create frameworks in which families are able to step up to the plate and ‘walk the talk’ of gender equality?

The first achievement of MenCare 2013, an international conference taking place in Cape Town, South Africa this week, is that it has created a friendly space in which practitioners from across the globe can find their own answers to these questions. All of us are sharing our ideas and experiences, and listening to the perspectives of other committed activists from regions very different from our own.

The meeting could hardly be more diverse. Projects from the Global North and Global South have a platform to mingle and explore what factors have contributed to each others’ successes and failures.

We’re hearing from innovative and inspiring projects working in countries as diverse as Botswana, Chile, Guatemala, Indonesia, Russia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Turkey, the UK, the US and Vietnam, about the problems they face – and the tools and strategies they use to further the agenda of supporting men in their essential, everyday roles as care-givers.

In many cases the cultures we inhabit couldn’t be more different – many of us think in distinct languages, and some have been developing our work in isolation. But what’s already clear is that many of the issues we must address are similar, and there’s a real sense of common ground in the child-centred focus of what we do. We’re getting to know each other…shared themes are emerging (MenCare’s ten themes aren’t a bad place to start)…the potential for new and fruitful collaborations feels exciting.

Watch this space for more information about the projects represented at the conference, and how our discussions develop.


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  • Great stuff, a real breakthrough, wish I was there! Next time!

  • nongenderbias9 says:

    Championing fatherhood is commendable in a society such as ours where some 3.5 million children now live without their birth fathers, because of our current policies on childcare.

    Yes we do need more fathers to stand up for the “fathering gift” which we possess and would love to give freely and naturally to our birth children.

    I am sure the Fatherhood Institute have part of the solution here, so thank you for that.

    What we need to tackle is an attitude that says “single parenting” is ok even when both mother and father are still both available and wanting to continue parenting even though they now live apart.

    If you examine the literature quoted by Cafcass on their website you will see that their understanding of parenting is as follows.

    A paper by Souffe is quoted:
    ……He raises concern about ‘shared parenting’ for babies and the different roles of fathers and mothers in attachment and child development, and claims that there is nothing in attachment theory to support the need for fathers to put their baby to bed and be the first to see them in the morning in order to develop attachment: what matters is regular contact…………….

    the dialogue continues……….

    When parents separate the important thing is for the child to have one secure base established first, and other attachments with the other parent, grandparents etc will develop from this.

    They use more literature to promote a separist attitude to parenting as is shown below.

    George, C., Solomon, J & McIntosh, in ‘Divorce in the Nursery: On Infants and Overnight Care’, Family Court Review 49: 3 (2011): 521 – 528 contains reflections by George and Solomon on their 1999 study of infant attachment in the context of overnight care, and how they feel their research has been used and misused. They suggest that for most babies under two years old then regular overnights away from their primary caregiver are stressful, and instead favour overnight continuity with one parent and regular day time contact with the non-custodial parent.

    Richard Bowlby reflects on the use of a secure base as a base for exploration and risk taking, on the dangers of being a ‘pass the parcel child’.

    In Waters, E & McIntosh, ‘Are We Asking the Right Questions about Attachment’, Family Court Review 49: 3 (2011):474 – 482, Waters suggests that the main question for a court is ‘Do you think this parenting arrangement will interfere with secure-base support, or support exploration…? Waters argues that Bowlby was wrong in thinking that only the early years were important in developing a secure base, and that it continues into late adolescence. He also comments on shared parenting.

    So you see our Cafcass services are encouraging separation of parenting roles right from birth through to adolesence.

    What we need to do is help Cafcass in their difficult job with literature that supports “shared parenting” (i.e. the fatherly involvment ) which the Fatherhood Institute is so keen to promote.

    So long as we continue to use the kind of language which has undermined the position of fathers’ probably since the end of the second world war nothing is likely to change.

    When families separate our goals need to be:

    Two secure bases. Shared parenting. Gender equality. Emotional stability. Mutual respect for each others parenting style.

    It would be a good start if we could provide support networks to promote some of these ideals rather than the “single parents are ok attitude” that is currently embraced. Sometimes “single parents” being the only parent can not be avoided but single parenting is NOT the answer to the matrimonial split.

    Kind regards


    ref: Cafcass website, Research and Resources bulletin 12………

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