Sunday, May 16, 2021

International Men’s Day highlights the problem of absentee fathers

What is a father beyond the co-procreator in human conception? This question was thoroughly interrogated by a dramatic monologue titled ‘Papa o kae?’ performed by Tefo Paya during the International Men’s Day commemoration in Selebi Phikwe on November 19th. This one man show sought answers from society on the issue of what happens to a boy child in the absence of a father in his life.

In ‘Papa Oka e?’ Tefo plays the role of a young boy who is seeking answers from his maternal grandfather (also played by Tefo) about the whereabouts of his father. The grandfather describes his daughter’s former lover as an abusive and disrespectful man, saying his abandonment was good riddance. The old man goes on to lament the modern day flagrant disregard for morals, values and misconstrued perceptions of advice from the yesteryears. He cites the statement “monna ke selepe,” saying it has been misconstrued to mean that a man should have multiple concurrent partners when it actually means that he should be an axe that provides shelter, protection and firewood for his family to cook.

“Instead, men have become murderers who end lives through femicide and spread deadly diseases by having multiple concurrent partners,” laments the old man.

In conclusion, the old man advises young Tefo to forget about his biological father and accept him (old man) as his father figure. But the young man persists in his quest to seek his father, despite horrendous flashbacks of abuse when his father beat him up for being afraid, crying or pretty much showing any kind of emotions. When father and son ultimately reunite the man has no time for his child and is more concerned with his new family. This plunges Tefo into despair and he turns into a drunken philanderer and perpetual one night-stander. He later sobers up after impregnating a young school girl. He then looks back at society, seeking his father for guidance.

The issue of absentee fathers is one of the greatest challenges faced by the nation, said Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Edwin Batshu during the commemorations. He further said research has shown that fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, suicide, poor educational performance and criminality. Also, a greater percentage of youth suicides, adolescent murderers as well as high school dropouts are reported to be from fatherless homes. Girls who live with non-natal fathers are at higher risk for sexual abuse than girls living with natal fathers. On the basis of the above statistics, said Batshu, government recognises that effecting sustained change to gender roles and relations requires addressing the forces that shape individual attitudes and community norms and practices.

“It is for this reason that government has developed targeted interventions to support men including review of laws to repeal those that discriminate against men and boys. As we commemorate International Men’s Day, let us remember that its purpose is to highlight men’s experiences,” he said.

He also urged men to make 2015 a year for promoting their involvement as fathers and carers, which will lead to a better life for all Batswana.

“The theme Working Together for Men and Boys challenges all of us to join efforts in supporting our men and boys to harness their invaluable contribution in development. By so doing, we would also be placing high responsibility on them to be active players in addressing various societal challenges that Botswana is currently facing,” said Batshu in conclusion.

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