Fighting fatherlessness to create a better society

Happy father and child piggyback in garden, backyard or walking in park with freedom and support. Black family, together and bonding outdoor in nature with love, happiness and energy. Picture: Supplied

Happy father and child piggyback in garden, backyard or walking in park with freedom and support. Black family, together and bonding outdoor in nature with love, happiness and energy. Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 22, 2024


As South Africa commemorated National Youth Day and Father’s Day on June 16, Father A Nation (FAN), called on policy makers and society at large to prioritise and support fathers in their critical roles as parents, role models, leaders, and nation-builders.

The organisation said the absence of positive male influence and the prevalence of destructive masculine behaviour were significant societal issues with far-reaching impact, contributing to broken families, crime, poverty and poor leadership, and a crippled nation.

“The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow, their development hinges on strong, positive influences,” said Craig Wilkinson, CEO and founder of FAN, a non-profit company (NPC) dedicated to combating fatherlessness and equipping men to live with positive masculinity.

FAN added that the recent elections highlighted grave concerns around corruption and a lack of effective leadership, which were symptoms of deeper issues in society. Wilkinson highlighted that strong, responsible fathers were foundational for building a safer, better society.

"We are at a pivotal moment in our country's history. The harsh realities of toxic masculinity and fatherlessness contribute to moral bankruptcy and a host of destructive behaviours among boys and men. By addressing these issues, we can raise good men and leaders who will positively contribute to families, society and the future of our country.

“Research shows a clear and undeniable link between fatherlessness and major social issues such as violent crime, corruption, gender-based violence, low education outcomes and mental illness. Good fathers and positive masculine behaviour are the antidote to all of this, transforming lives and building strong communities.”

He added that despite prevailing social ills, there was growing awareness of the significance of fathers and father figures, where responsible fatherhood and positive masculinity were increasingly recognised as crucial in how societies developed for the better.

“A growing number of men are willing to start changing the narrative of father absenteeism, but the widening economic disparities in the country mean that many of these fathers will need support at policy level to meet their responsibilities as providers and caregivers,” said Wilkinson.

According to the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), more than 60% of children in South Africa don’t live with their biological fathers, and 20% only have contact with their biological father twice a week. Tragically this has become a self-perpetuating cycle as boys who grew up without fathers become fathers themselves.

“Many of today's young fathers’ express grief over never having known their own fathers and blame their absence and destructive behaviour, on the lack of male role models teaching and modelling fatherhood and positive masculinity to them in their formative years.” added Wilkinson.

SA is further ailed by low rates of paternal maintenance and high rates of male abuse and neglect, perpetuating an environment where boys grow up to be wounded men. FAN believes that when fathers are supported in being present and engaged parents, the benefits extend far beyond individual families.

"The positive influence of involved fathers on children's development, families’ well-being, communities and the country as a whole cannot be overstated. The path to lasting societal change begins by fostering a culture of integrity within the family unit from an early age, laying the foundation for a thriving and equitable society and creating a ripple effect of positive change that will benefit the entire nation,” said Wilkinson.

On a mission to raise the next generation of men to build a safe and prosperous South Africa, FAN has been running mentorship programmes, educational workshops, and community initiatives across the country since 2010. FAN is actively calling on individuals and organisations to partner in these crucial initiatives.

Saturday Star