NGO Peer Educators Network in cooperation with the United Nations Population Fund organized a round-table discussion on the importance of engaging men in fatherhood and care-taking in the family. This table was held for the purpose of marking the International Day of Families and the discussion was focused on the active participation of fathers during childbirth and labor, as well as shared responsibilities and equal care-taking. The panel consisted of: Mr. Kadri Gashi, Project Coordinator at PEN, Mrs. Visare Mujko-Nimani from the UNFPA , Mrs. Dafina Zuna-Hoxha from UNICEF and Mr. Besnik Leka from Care International.
Mr. Kadri started the discussion by speaking about the work done within the Young Men Initiative – the “Be a Man Club” and the “Super Dad” campaign. Mr. Kadri said that during the first year of their work, the Be a Man Club focused more on awareness campaigns, while during the second year the program was broadened and they began to organize trainings. During this period, 30 fathers were trained while simultaneously working with men and women on topics related to reproductive and sexual health, family planning, gender roles and so on. There have been numerous collaborations for the purpose of effectiveness and dissemination, including the cooperation with SOS Children’s Villages in Kosovo, from which 15 fathers were trained and the cooperation with Family Health Centers in Prishtina from which 47 health professionals were trained. Mr. Kadri spoke about the “Super Dad” campaign, which was developed as part of the Young Men Initiative, whose aim is to influence the engagement of fathers in the family by promoting it through various messages, pictures, slogans on fatherhood etc.
Initially, the Young Men Initiative was devoted to young men, mainly students of vocational technical schools, but after some time, expanding the program was a necessity in order to achieve more results. Mr. Kadri emphasized the importance of equal parental participation and how beneficial this is for each family and questioned whether there is satisfactory awareness on the subject in Kosovo.
He said: “Thomson Reuters’s report of 2 May 2017, involving 18,000 participants and 25 emerging states, reported data showing that most men think that the role of women in families has already changed and shared responsibilities belong to both parents. A survey has been conducted in Kosovo also, whereas 90% of the interviewed men considered that most of the responsibilities within the family belong to women, which has encouraged us to work continuously on promoting gender equality. If both men and women are engaged in the family, benefits are as follows: the economic stance is better, and children will be less violent, impulsive or unstable.”
About 250 fathers were directly involved in the fatherhood program and 150 fathers were trained. Mr. Kadri stressed: “The fathers have shown interest and were motivated but there has generally been a lack of initiatives directed towards the topic of equal engagement in the family, however, within this project fathers and young men will advocate and gather to further promote gender equality. Through regional campaigns we are working with fathers and young men, we’re trying to bring a positive approach by working with younger generations to make change starting earlier in life”.
The discussion continued with Mrs. Visare from the UNFPA, who spoke about the current obstacles in Kosovo regarding the subject and the cooperation with PEN: “Initially, UNFPA deals with sexual and reproductive health, gender equality and population data, where we have given more importance to the involvement of girls and women. We have noticed that we weren’t moving forward in certain aspects, and that was because we would not give the same importance to the involvement of boys and men. Alongside with PEN and the Family Heath Centers in Pristina we have worked on various activities in order to advocate for the idea of men’s participation during the process of birth and equal care-giving in the family. Mrs. Visare emphasized that women should encourage men to get involved and simply not assume that men should not and do not know how to help, solely because they’ve been brought up to believe that.
Mrs. Dafina talked about the Investment Strategy for the First 1000 Days of the Child launched by UNICEF on May 6th, during which event the attendees have shown great interest. Mrs. Dafina mentioned that soon the strategy will start being implemented.
In the framework of the Strategy are foreseen: Immunization and breastfeeding – immunization is done by 95% of the population but there is no continuous immunization, whereas with breastfeeding the situation is not satisfactory, and stimulation and care to the child – where importance is put unto engaging children in games, sports, walking and reading. This strategy will be implemented during a 4 years period and PEN will assist in its implementation. Campaigns will be held in order to drive changes in the practices and attitudes of citizens. Certain practices have already started to change among the Kosovar people, and this program will aim to boost that component of family care in our society.
The panel was followed by Mr. Besnik Leka sharing his experience, as representative of Care International in the Balkans. He said: “Care International has given importance to gender equality, and the idea of the Be a Man Club has been highly appreciated by us, especially considering the fact that the program has been received and is being adapted for implementation in other countries of the region. There have been workshops where we talked about the division between the roles of men and women, we’ve worked with fathers and young men, and we look forward to seeing changes from the participants.” Mr. Besnik talked about the possible situation if paternity leaves are admitted for fathers, whereas he shared that he has encountered women who believed that another woman would be hired to sort things out at home because of her husband’s incompetence to assist and share responsibilities.
Subsequently the discussion involved the attendees, where they expressed their discontent with the inadequacy and inappropriate conditions for involving men, in particular the conditions that make it impossible for men to help their wives during labor. The participants argued that not necessarily the father’s presence at the moment of birth adds to their sense of responsibility for child care. One of the members of the Be a Man Club said that this is a subject on which he wants to continue working with dedication. While doctors from the Family Health Centers in Pristina reported on their work to educate youngsters on family planning and equal care-taking.
Some of the conclusions of the meeting were: the issue of maternity leave should be regulated by the state with respect to gender equality, both women and men should be involved during the period before the birth of the child; more programs on care-taking and family planning, for the viewpoint of people residing in villages to be considered also and to develop mutual cooperation and responsibilities between men and women in the family.