I struggled with writing a piece about Father’s Day.
I have had two fathers.
My birth father, a man I only knew until I was eight, and whom I can still feel in my heart, hung himself after the death of my mother. I have not yet been back to Poland to find his grave, and am leaving that for a day when I will not be afraid of drowning in my own tears.
My adoptive father passed away when I was 24. I know, I go through parents quickly.
He gave me a chance at a new life in Canada, and despite his best intentions, which I do recognize, physically and sexually abused me.
My views of fatherhood were skewed for years but gratefully, I have met many fathers out there in the world who exemplified what it means to truly accept that role in a positive way.
My partner used to volunteer at a prison visiting men who were eager to have someone on the outside to talk to. He told me that many of them had severely ruptured relationships, often violent in history, with their fathers.
In fact, he said that in an experiment at one particular jail, many male prisoners had written Mother’s Day cards on that occasion but very few had anything to say to their fathers on Father’s Day.
I heard more about how fathering impacts men in the Ted talk I just watched given by Gary Barker Phd, the International Director and founder of the international NGO (non-governmental organization) Promundo:
“Fatherhood has saved men from returning to a life of crime.
Care-giving has an incredible impact on the hearts and psyches of men.
Child connections and care-giving is a serious business for men. It changes society forever. It expands a man’s soul in immeasurable ways.”
Intrigued by the talk, I sought out the group called Promundo.
Slightly embarrassed that I had not heard of them before as I too promote gender justice and violence prevention, I hungrily read through their site.
Here are a few things that I learned about this group:
Founded in Brazil in 1997, Promundo is a global leader in promoting gender justice and preventing violence in societies, communities and homes by working to engage men and boys in partnership with women and girls.
They believe that changing norms and power dynamics related to masculinity is a strategic part of building safe and equitable homes and communities and achieving equitable gender relations.
They test and evaluate ways to engage men and boys in empowering women and girls, such as using sports, schools and health clinics as entry points to transform harmful norms around what it means to be a man.
Their advocacy campaigns, group education and group therapies create safe spaces for men and women in post-conflict and high-violence settings to heal from trauma, for youth in over 22 countries to question harmful gender norms, and for men around the world to discuss the benefits of involved fatherhood and shared decision-making, and the costs of violence and exploitation.
Major organizations including the United Nations, World Bank and World Health Organization have supported the cause: by working jointly on their initiatives or by adopting their programs and rolling them out in other communities around the world.
Their mission is to promote gender equality and create a world free from violence by engaging men and boys in partnership with women and girls.
Their vision is a world where all people work to create a nonviolent, caring and gender-equitable future for themselves and for their children.
I am incredibly heartened by the work of this group and the knowledge that fatherhood is a portal for change for so many men.
I invite you to watch the video and hear for yourself how caregiving/fatherhood leaves a permanent positive mark on men and indeed, creates shifts within society.
As for my Father’s Day celebrations, I celebrate the two men who father my daughters. One, their birth father and one, their step-dad—they both have my gratitude.
Happy Father’s Day everyone.
Source: Promundo website/TEDxTalks
Author: Monika Carless
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Screen shot/ Ted talk.