October 31, 2019



Heartlines’ fatherhood project to promote men’s active positive presence in the lives of children, funded by the Oak Foundation, gained much momentum with a three-day message design workshop attended by key partners and researchers from both Uganda and South Africa.

The conference was well attended by organisations such as the Wits Centre for Excellence in Human Development, UNICEF SA, DG Murray Trust,  the Human Sciences Research Council, Save the Children UK, local film production company Quizzical Pictures and Ugandan film producer Talking Film production, Heartlines’ research partner in Uganda, AfriChild, and a representative from Columbia University in the USA.  

Opening the workshop, Heartlines CEO Dr Garth Japhet said the role of fathers in the lives of children was one of the biggest social issues currently needing to be addressed.

The message design workshop was an opportunity to hear key findings from formative research conducted in both South Africa and Uganda, sparking conversation and reflection on what our key messages for the campaign will be. The aim is to develop a 360 degree multimedia strategy which will use broadcasting, social media and print media to reach large numbers of people, and support organisations working in the field.

Prof Sue Goldstein of the Wits Centre of Health Economics and Decision Science spoke about the power of film, television, radio and music, when used for research-based edutainment.

“People have learnt through drama for centuries, and everyone loves a good story,” she said. “Drama can deal with complex issues and people can identify with characters. Drama gives any social issue a human face.”

Goldstein explained that social learning happens when people observe others’ behaviour, attitudes and outcomes of those behaviours, whilst making reference to the success of the Soul City and Soul Buddyz edutainment programme.

In her research findings presentation, Latasha Slavin, head of research at Heartlines, noted that the two-parent nuclear family structure was becoming less common in the world, with an increasing number of children growing up in a single-parent household.

Further statistics show that 54% of men aged 15-49 years of age in SA are fathers, 50% of whom have no daily contact with their children. In 2017, 62% of births in SA had no information about the father recorded on the birth certificate with 50% of fathers not playing a positive role in their children’s lives.

“Unemployment and not being able to provide for their families brings shame, and this shame causes them to stay away from their families” said Slavin.

“There is also a notion that fatherhood is transactional for families, and communities, and in many instances fathers are viewed as ATMs.  Provision is an entry point to fatherhood, and it functions as a way of restricting access. This is played out culturally in term of lobola (payment of the bride price) and damages (also known as inhlawulo, a payment for impregnating the daughter). 

Today’s legal system also places more emphasis on the role of the mother more so than the father, with courts preferring to give custody to mothers even if the father is in a better position to look after the child.”

On the other hand, research presented by Dr Rosalind Lubanga found that Uganda, which has the second highest number of children and youth in the world, has 78% of households being headed by men.

Similarly to South Africa, fathers were expected to be breadwinners in their family.  Families in Uganda expressed that a good father is one who provides education for his children, spends quality time with his family, takes his children to the hospital when they are sick, and provides spiritual guidance and shelter for his family. Furthermore, those who are deemed to be good fathers are also sought out for counsel and consultation by community members.

Conference attendee and Assistant Commissioner for Family Affairs in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development in Uganda, Innocent Byaruhanga, said government should play a critical role in partnering with NGOs to address issues of fatherhood both in SA and Uganda, as a thriving or dysfunctional society stems from the home and it’s government’s responsibility to take care of its citizens.

“What truly resonated with me in this conference is that Heartlines has highlighted the story of fathers, their influence in the home and society, which is not a common story that is discussed in government. Love is a very important part of human connection because it builds happy families, a happy community and a stable society.” 

Pamela Kgare, project manager overlooking the Child Protection & Fatherhood Project, says she was pleased with the workshop and the turnout of key partners and stakeholders.

“It went incredibly well, key stakeholders were well represented from Government, civil society and the faith sector. They were also highly engaged and contributed well to the overall discussion which will assist us in shaping the intervention.”

Kgare says they will now be consolidating all the research findings from both SA and Uganda to produce a report that will be published online and shared with stakeholders.

“The research findings presented at the workshop form the basis of our project plan which will be finalised by December 2019. From January 2020, Heartlines will begin the development of the multi-media resources.”



To get the latest Heartlines news into your inbox