Over the past two decades, major world conferences and summits, such as those organised by the United Nations, have called attention to the issues affecting families, including family roles and responsibilities, gender equality and men’s greater participation in family life. The 1995 World Summit for Social Development, for instance, acknowledged the importance of providing help to families so as to enable them to perform their supporting, educating and nurturing roles. Such support involves enacting social policies and programmes designed to meet the needs of families and their individual members, including those promoting equal partnership between women and men in the family and ensuring opportunities for family members to understand and meet their social obligations. Failed to find current activity on that particular theme, that’s y I used the words in the last decade.
In furtherance of this, the Institute for Social Transformation organised a community dialogue for residents of Buyengo parish in Buyengo trading centre, Dabani sub-county, Busia district under the theme ‘Parental Responsibility: How Men’s Failure to Fulfil their Responsibility Has Increased Violence against Women’. The main objective of the event was building a critical mass of people at the community and district levels who support the prevention of violence against women, as well as the protection of their rights and a response to those rights.
The community dialogue was attended by the local leaders, women’s rights champions trained and commissioned by the Institute for Social Transformation (IST), district councillors, religious leaders, Community Development Officers (CDOs), village elders, youth and community members.
Children with absentee fathers have a risk factor of two to three times that of children with involved fathers for a wide range of negative outcomes, including dropping out of school, giving birth as a teenager and becoming a juvenile delinquent.
Specifically, the dialogue, which took place in March 2017, sought to encourage collective responsibilities within the family setting, with men setting up and owning up to their different roles and obligations.
It was organised under a series of presentations and discussions on selected topics given by highly qualified violence against (VAW) and education professionals. The aim of these discussions was to stimulate debate and documentation of the efforts and successes as well as the struggles involved in addressing VAW within the family setting.
During the discussions, the participants exhibited a proper understanding of Article 31 (1) of the 1995 Constitution, which stipulates that a man and a woman are entitled to marry only if they are each of the age of 18 years and above and are entitled at that age: (a) to found a family; and (b) to equal rights at, in marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. Some of the rights include: the right to respect; the right to privacy; freedom of speech and expression; taking part in decision-making; and the right to property. According to Sub-Article (4) it is the right of parents to care for and bring up their children.
Mr Ojiambo Francis, the CDO Buyengo sub-county, talking to participants during the dialogue. He noted that ‘violence against women breeds poverty, insecurity and backwardness in families and the community at large’ and, therefore, challenged those present to work together to end the vice, mostly in their families, as they form the core foundation for good communities and nations.
The responsibilities of both men and women were also at the heart of the discussions. It was noted that although men are aware of their obligations, the majority have stubbornly stepped aside and left everything to their female counterparts. As a result, the women are economically violated since they are left to solely provide the family’s basic needs, including school fees for the children, food, shelter, medical bills and clothing. The men, on the other hand, spend most of their time either drinking, gambling or philandering.
Although men are still traditionally seen as economic providers, disciplinarians and protectors within their families, current trends demand that they take on new responsibilities, including caregiving and providing emotional support to children, offering guidance so as to enable children to connect with their extended family and community members, and participating in a variety of household activities.
This kind of behaviour was mostly blamed on polygamy, which is rampant in Busia, lack of respect for men by their wives, poverty, and poor upbringing with no male role models where young boys don’t have fathers that they can look up to while growing up.
Key amongst the recommendations made to address this situation in families was for both female and male spouses to love and respect one another. As one of the elders advised: ‘Women must be respected because they are the pillars of the homes. Men should collaborate with their wives to engage in income-generating activities to provide for the family and build peaceful, loving homes.’
Ms Norah Nabwire, IST Programme/Legal Officer, coordinating the question-and-answer session during the dialogue.
Men were also cautioned against marrying many wives because of the very many challenges and risks involved, like having to provide for many family members yet resources are meagre and increased risks of getting sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDs. These acts also promote inequalities amongst co-wives and children and are a breeding ground for conflicts, and low self-esteem.
A responsible man should be in a position to call for family meetings at least once a month during which family members talk about issues that concern them. He should also provide for his family, be accountable to his wife and children, and participate in house chores. Wabwire Abubaka Idi – LC III Buyengo Trading Centre
In addition, it was proposed that a byelaw on excessive drinking be initiated at the sub-county. This byelaw would incriminate any person who appeared to be under the influence of alcohol to a degree that endangered him/herself or another person and property.
Furthermore, men were advised to take up income-generating activities such as commercial agriculture, as opposed to subsistence farming, to help boost their income levels.
Lastly, the importance of conducting family meetings was emphasised. During such meetings family members would come together to discuss their unique needs, challenges and solutions.