By Dennis Ruto– Youth Alive Kenya
As we celebrate this Father’s Day, I can’t help but ponder what does it means to be a father in the 21st century? What values and attributes are key to raising responsible children and families? How do you insulate your children from the transient and excesses of this world? These thoughts fill up my mind more often than not, and scared me a lot the first time I heard that I was going to be a dad. One of the biggest transitions that is underpinned in socio-cultural norms is the aspect of men taking part in care (of children, older adults, people living with disabilities etc.) and domestic work (house chores such as cleaning, cooking, washing and similar tasks).
Our societies and lives are dependent on care, be it in house chores, childcare and upbringing and in other broader socio-economic structures and formations. According to a recent publication by the International Labor Organization (ILO) (Care work and care jobs for the future of decent work), women globally do three to ten times more unpaid care and domestic work than men. The ILO estimates that at the current rate of change, the world is at least 92 years away from achieving equality in unpaid care work between men and women (The unpaid care work and the labour market: An analysis of time use data based on the latest world compilation of time-use surveys). 92 YEARS!!
It took a pandemic to help shift this narrative albeit probably short-lived. A survey by the UN Women (Whose time to care? Unpaid care and domestic work during COVID-19) in 47 countries show that as a result of the COVID-19 lockdowns, men have been carrying out more care and domestic work than any time in history. And we haven’t heard of any breaking news that men have turned to pillars of salt or become lesser of a man due to this.
For there to be a more gender-balanced relationship in caregiving, men have to be better fathers. That’s why this is such an opportune partnership between Oxfam Kenya and Youth Alive! Kenya to rally behind this global campaign, and what a better time than during Father’s Day. That’s why we live and advocate the 4R mantra – Recognize, Reduce and redistribute care work between men and women and Represent women in decision-making processes.
This is one of the more important lessons I have picked up along the way in my fatherhood journey. I have learnt that to change the narrative, I have to start at home. That there is no shame in helping with care work, it doesn’t make me less of a man neither have I been “sat on” (kukaliwa as we call it). As a matter of fact, it is a duty that I take with a lot of pride and joy. I must be a living example and role model to my children and to others of an ethic of male care.
“This is how I Care? How do you“?