Just few months ago, it was unthinkable to see young men in some parts of rural Gambia shouldering basic child care responsibilities, such as baby sitting due to deep-rooted stereotypes and centuries-old social constructs.
Today, that notion is fading away for many young fathers who enrolled in the Responsive/Inclusive Parenting Program being rolled out by ChildFund International The Gambia, UNICEF Gambia and Dubai Cares.
“Now I can put our little child under his father’s care when I am busy or whenever I am out to take care of certain important things,” says Kaddy Kalleh, a young mother in Njaba Kunda village in the North Bank Region.
A mother of five, Kaddy herself appears to have turned a corner in the way she relates with her children. “Personally, I used to be very hard on my own kids, even beating them sometimes. But now, that is a thing of the past,” she explains.
As far as play and communications with her children are concerned which is an important component of the Inclusive Parenting Education Initiative, Kaddy acknowledges that her playing with Abdoulie, the youngest of her children, makes him very attached to her these days.”
What makes the Inclusive Parenting Programme even more interesting is the manner in which young men are buying into the programme. “The enrollment of 20 men and 20 women in each of the beneficiary communities hammers home the message that child care is not the sole responsibility of the wife, but both men and women,”says Ousainou Njie of Daru Fodeba village, North Bank Region.
Edrissa Jagne, a young father who conducts monthly parenting education sessions in Jarreng in the Central River Region, intimates that the issue of birth registration alone is seen as a matter of cardinal importance by members of community.
“The participants, the bulk of whom are young couples, are even going a step further to share with other caregivers that are not part of the programme key messages that are contained in the parenting manual”, he reveals.
The Parenting Practices for Early Childhood Development Programme is the product of a tripartite partnership involving ChildFund The Gambia, UNICEF Gambia and Dubai Cares.
Currently being implemented in 30 communities spread across North Bank, Lower River and Central River Regions, one of the three envisaged outcomes of the intervention is that 1200 parents would have acquired awareness and applied knowledge of children’s rights and parenting skills.
At the heart of the parenting education manual being used by the sixty community facilitators in their group sessions or home visits are safe pregnancy and delivery, safe environments, quality health care and nutrition, positive discipline, toy making using locally available resources, play and communication.
Famara Fofana is a freelance journalist and communications specialist with Child Fund International. He’s the author of ‘Reflections of An African Village Boy’ and ‘When My Village Was My Village’.