By Irene !Hoaes
A national conference on families, the first of its kind to be held in the country, started in the capital yesterday.
The conference, organised by the Directorate of Social Welfare Services in the health ministry is a build-up to the International Day of Families.
May 15 is designated International Day of Families. The day highlights the importance of families. It aims at fostering equality, bringing about a fuller sharing of domestic responsibilities and employment opportunities.
The conference, whose theme is, “Fathers and Families, Responsibilities and Challenges”, is addressing issues like the role of men in the family, the Maintenance Act and suicide in Namibia.
A World Health Organisation (WHO) representative, Dr Olufemi Oke, said the observance of the day is an indication of the importance the international community attaches to families worldwide.
“As families shrink from the large extended family system even in our traditional societies to the much smaller nuclear families, the roles and responsibilities of the father have also witnessed tremendous changes.”
Oke says under the traditional extended family system, communities practiced collective fatherhood, but in present day family systems the role of the father is taking on added significance.
Oke says the increased participation of women in the labour force has also brought about additional responsibilities to men as fathers who have become more actively involved in both the emotional and practical day-to-day aspects of childbearing.
The WHO representative calls for father-friendly supportive policies that will remove barriers to paternal involvement in parenting, as assumptions cannot be made that fathers know all that they need to do to support their families.
“We must therefore put in place policies and interventions that will address issues around education programmes for fathers, facilitation of father-child bonding at infancy, starting at birth in hospital,” Oke said.
He added that father-friendly work-related policies addressing issues such as paternity leave, flexible work times, family leave for men and an overall work atmosphere supportive of family life for both women and men are put in place.
In a message delivered on his behalf by the Acting Deputy Director in the Directorate of Social Welfare Services, Ren??????’??