How to give the perfect cuddle, how to stop a nightmare and how to braid hair are some of the skills South African dads with daughters have mastered.
In an online survey – conducted by toy giant Mattel in January this year on 500 dads from across South Africa with daughters under the age of 18 – the top 20 skills fathers who are involved in their daughter’s lives have honed, were revealed.
According to the results of the survey, 85% of dads know the importance of showing their daughters that being kind and brave is more important than being pretty.
With regards to empowering their daughters, 82% of dads reportedly tell their daughters they can be anything. Some dads revealed they allow their daughters to make their own mistakes, teach her the value of money at an early age and encourage her to be brave.
Mastered skills include:
lHow to make her feel special;
lHow to make everything better;
lHow to stop a nightmare;
lHow to face paint;
lHow to braid hair;
lWhat objects in the house make a great pop star microphone; and
lHow to make a pair of fairy wings.
“By joining in with activities, such as cartwheels, playtime and dancing, dads are showing their daughters just how much they matter and that everything they do is important,” marketing director Isabel Ferrer said.
“A huge part of a dad’s role is to empower their daughters to be confident, imaginative and sure of who they are. Global research shows how time spent in her imaginary world is an investment in her real world and the importance of nurturing the father-daughter relationship to raise the next generation of girls to know their limitless potential.”
While this research focuses on the positive aspects of fathers being involved in their daughters’ upbringing, for many in the country this is not the case.
In a study conducted by the University of Johannesburg, Sonke Gender Justice and the department of social development titled “So we are ATM fathers: A study of absent fathers in Johannesburg”, researchers found one father out of two is absent from his child’s life in South Africa.
The figure stems from estimates that about 54% of men aged 15 to 49 years are fathers, with almost 50% of these fathers not in daily contact with their children.
The effects of a father’s absence has been associated with negative outcomes for children and women which include poor educational performance, school drop-outs, teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse.
In an article which appeared in Women’s Day, authors of the book The Fatherless Daughter Project: Understanding Our Losses and Reclaiming Our Lives – Karin Luise and Denna Babul – said girls who grow up without a father can develop negative coping skills such as sexual promiscuity, total avoidance of intimacy, isolation, substance abuse, anxiety and depression.
“Fatherless daughters report having difficulty in relationships and in the workplace interacting with men because they were never taught how to feel comfortable with a man in their father’s absence,” the article reads.
“They can also carry into adulthood conflicting issues with their mothers from becoming her caretaker for a time or witnessing so much chaos in the home. Financial distress or poverty often follows father loss and this can have a significant impact in every area of a girl’s upbringing. They learn subconsciously to accept less in relationships due to diminished self-esteem. They usually believe they must work for love or may not be worthy of it at all.”
Provincial media manager of Sonke Gender Justice Patrick Godana said while there were various reasons why fathers miss out on their children’s upbringing, the two most common reasons were as a result of our former political system and patriarchy.
Whatever the reason, Godana said girl children who grow up without a father, usually end up suffering from a low self- esteem or a lack of self-confidence, leading them to make poor relationship choices.
“There were many fathers who were involved in the political struggle during apartheid and they went away to go into exile, leaving their families behind.
“This resulted in two things. Firstly, the children grew up without their fathers around and even when they returned, there was an emotional distance caused by years of separation. Secondly, these children were confused and ended up calling their grandfathers their fathers.
“We also have the issue of patriarchy in our society which results in fathers being emotionally disconnected from their children, especially from their girls. Patriarchy has taught men to be tough, to be the strength of the family and not to show affection. This negatively affects the children as they get no affection from their fathers. The burden of feeling then falls on the poor mother who has to perform all of the household chores around the house and provide the children with affection.”
According to Godana, these emotionally starved girls usually fall into the arms of sugar daddies.
“This is usually because they are missing the love from a father figure in their lives. And because of their low self-esteem or low self-confidence, they end up being abused by these sugar daddies.”
Director of Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre Dr Lesley-Anne Foster said children need the love of both parents in order to be more grounded and balanced – whether the parents are married or not. She said living arrangements should also not act as a deterrent in the provision of love and affection.
According to Foster, in her past experience of working with abandoned street children, she had found that boys tended to display greater behavioural problems when compared to girls.
“Some children struggle with identity issues if they don’t have a balanced family unit backing them. By family unit I mean a mom and dad who love them.
“Parents don’t have to be together in order to love their child. Children who are shown love, a level of concern and are guided by their parents, should thrive,” she said.
Godana concluded by challenging all fathers to take an active role in their children’s lives.
“I am challenging all fathers, uncles and brothers to take an active role in children’s lives starting today. Children need a father or a father figure in their lives, particularly girls, especially with the spate of gender-based violence sweeping across the country. They need to be guided and protected.”