Man in Box

Man in Box

Saturday, June 20, 2015

State of the World’s Fathers

State of the World’s Fathers Report
published by MenCare

16 June 2015
full report:
Key Findings 

    While it is increasing, men’s unpaid caregiving has not kept pace with women’s participation in the labor force. The amount of care work done by men varies from country to country and family to family, but nowhere do men and boys contribute equally. 
  •  Women’s time spent and responsibility for unpaid care remains disproportionate to men’s: women spend 2 to 10 times longer, on average, caring for a child or older person than men do.
  • Women spend more time on combined paid and unpaid work, including in developed economies: women in OECD countries spend 22 more minutes a day on paid and unpaid care work than men do. The largest disparities are in Latin America, where women spend 6 to 23 more hours a week than men do.
  • Women, as compared to men, spend over 3 times as much time on unpaid care work in Mexico, New Zealand, and Japan; nearly 5 times as much in Korea; 8 times as much in South Africa; and nearly 10 times as much in India. Even in Europe, which as a region has achieved the greatest degree of equality, women do 26 hours of domestic and care work on average per week, as compared to 9 hours per week for men.
  • The double burden carried by many women reduces their ability to contribute to the household economy, as well as to develop their own skills and talents outside the home. In a study in Latin America and the Caribbean, more than 50% of women aged 20 to 24 said that their unpaid responsibilities in the home were the main reason they could not look for paid work.
  • Studies from India, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Malaysia have found that children’s ages and fathers’ marital satisfaction, as well as their relationships with their own fathers, are all important drivers of change.
  • Between 61 and 77% of fathers report that they would work less if it meant that they could have more time with their children.
  • While maternity leave is now offered in nearly all countries, only 92 offer paternity leave for fathers. Iceland seems to be the world champion in men’s use of paternity leave: men there now average 103 days of paid leave. However, women in Iceland still take 3 times more than this. In other countries, fathers only take around 20% of the leave that mothers do.


     The report provides evidence that even though unmet sexual and reproductive health needs continue to be the biggest threat to women’s and girls’ health worldwide, men have not been adequately engaged in the solution.
  • In the Global South, men’s presence at pre-natal care visits varies greatly, from 96% in the Maldives to only 18% in Burundi. However, fathers around the world are often not closely engaged during pregnancy and are absent at birth and in early infancy, despite evidence to suggest that engaging men and boys can have important benefits for the health of mothers and children.
  • One woman dies every 2 minutes from complications associated with pregnancy and childbirth. Across the globe, 34 of 1,000 babies alive at birth, die before the age of 1, and 46 of 1,000 die before the age of 5.
  • The involvement of fathers before, during, and after the birth of a child has been shown to have positive effects on maternal health behaviors, women’s use of maternal and newborn health services, and fathers’ longer-term support and involvement in the lives of their children.
  • A recent analysis of research from low- and middle-income countries found that male involvement was significantly associated with improved skilled birth attendance, utilization of post-natal care, and fewer women dying in childbirth.
  • In high-income countries, fathers’ presence has been shown to be helpful in encouraging and supporting mothers to breastfeed.
  • Fathers’ support also influences women’s decision to immunize their children and to seek care for childhood illnesses.

     The report reiterates that the majority of women who suffer violence do so at the hands of an intimate male partner. It examines how the gendered nature of parenting and experiences of violence as children can lead some men to use violence against women and against children in adulthood. The result is that only a minority of children make it to adulthood without experiencing or witnessing some kind of violence in their homes, schools, or communities – often at the hands of adults who are supposed to care for them.
  •  Approximately 1 in 3 women globally experiences violence at the hands of a male partner in her lifetime – a level that the World Health Organization has called an “epidemic.”
  • Research from Norway found that the incidence of violence against women or children in father-dominated homes was 3 times higher than in more equitable homes.
  • Gender-based violence (GBV) against pregnant women ranged from 2% in Australia, Cambodia, Denmark, and the Philippines to 14% in Uganda.
  • Between 500 million and 1.5 billion children experience violence every year, and 60% of children between the ages of 2 and 4 around the world (nearly 1 billion children) are subjected to physical punishment by their caregivers on a regular basis.
  • The most common form of violence by parents against children is corporal punishment, including physical and humiliating punishment, and it is widespread.
  • Approximately 75% of children between the ages of 2 and 14 experience violent discipline in the home in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Studies in high-income countries suggest that anywhere between 45 and 70% of children whose mothers are experiencing violence themselves experience physical abuse.

    The report finds that children need at least one deeply involved and dedicated caregiver to thrive, and that this can be a man or a woman. Children need care and the world needs men – as biological as well as social fathers – to be part of that care.
  •  Evolution has left men as deeply biologically wired for emotional connections to children as women are. In other words, children similarly affect the development of both mothers and fathers, just as fathers and mothers affect children.
  • Fathers’ involvement has been linked to lower rates of depression, fear, and self-doubt in their young adult children, and it may also protect sons from delinquency.
  • Levels of fathers’ involvement in children’s educational activities vary greatly by country: between 10% of fathers in Swaziland and 79% of fathers in Montenegro report being involved in at least one learning activity with their children.  
  • However non-residence does not equal absence, as fathers often maintain varying degrees of involvement with their children. In the United Kingdom, 87% of non-resident fathers say they have contact with their children, and nearly 50% say that their children stay with them on a regular basis.
  • States should adopt and implement parental leave policies for both mothers and fathers that guarantee paid parental leave that is equitable and non-transferable between parents.
  • States should adopt and implement policies in the public health sector that promote and support men’s and boys' involvement, education, and awareness-raising in sexual and reproductive health and rights, men’s involvement in maternal and child health, before and after the child’s birth.
  • States should pass and enforce laws to ban physical and humiliating punishment of children and implement the laws through policies that promote non-violent child rearing that involves fathers, mothers, educators, and social workers.
  • States should adopt and implement policies that specifically encourage and support fathers’ and caregivers’ involvement in early childhood development, care, and education. 

     About MenCare
      MenCare is a global fatherhood campaign active in approximately 30 countries on 5 continents. Through programming, media campaigns, and advocacy, MenCare partners work at multiple levels to engage individuals, communities, institutions, and policymakers. MenCare’s mission is to promote men’s involvement as equitable, non-violent fathers and caregivers in order to achieve family well-being, gender equality, and better health for mothers, fathers, and children. Visit MenCare is coordinated globally by Promundo and Sonke Gender Justice and jointly steered by Save the Children, Rutgers, and the MenEngage Alliance.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Father’s Day Blues

Father’s Day Blues
Originally published in the American Men's Studies Association Quarterly, 04 June 2015

After a sojourn as an English professor in Saudi Arabia, looking at Father’s Day tributes on Facebook made me feel blue. Part of this was having lived amongst so many men living alone in Riyadh. Most of the millions of men who worked in that city had traded separation from family for a high wage. These men from Pakistan, India, other parts of the Middle East, Europe, and the U.S. were separated from their children by thousands of miles. The fathers made a sacrifice for the financial security of their families, while living in a place that, more than anywhere else in the world, is inhospitable to single men.

I felt their pain. “I can’t parent on Skype,” I told my Dean. Separated from his own Arab American children, he quoted this often. I left a lot of tax-free money on the table to return to my daughter. However, I could no longer bear living without social access to women and children.

But there was something else to my own “Father’s Day blues.” I read no tributes to my own fatherhood. The separation in Saudi Arabia was just the latest rupture in a Humpty Dumpty relationship with my two eldest children. In the wake of an ugly divorce, I had gained custody in 2002, but they had both chosen to leave my house when they turned twelve. Their mother had poisoned the well, and it has proven impossible to repair the damage.

The years when I was a single father in Oklahoma and Jamaica were perhaps the happiest in my life. Losing my first two children at age 12 scarred me. My children had been coached to see our single-father family as a confinement. I came to feel that the social world in which I lived conspired to make fathers irrelevant. Those of us who attempt to write new scripts often come to feel that we are swimming upstream. In the children’s stories I read with my first two children, the father was almost never present. Was I fated to fulfil the book?

In my own wider family, fathers are still treated as honoured patriarchs. Amongst my scattered circle of liberal friends, there is at least lip service to the importance of fathers. But I came from a very different world, close-knit Christian families who stick to their communities of faith. Having given up that gold standard, then attempting to carve out a non-traditional role of hands-on father-nurturer, I somehow ended up written out of the script as a practicing father to my own children. How did I get here?

Looking at fatherhood through my FB contacts, I could group my friends by decade. There were friends from the 1980s, when I was in the music business in Austin, Texas. There were friends from the 1990s in the San Francisco Bay Area, when I was a grad student. There were friends and colleagues from the first decade of the 21st century, split between Oklahoma City and Jamaica. And then there were recent friends and colleagues from time in Tampa, St Petersburg, and Riyadh.

Then there are family members, conservative Christians in West Texas, or my birth state of Oklahoma. Now the children of my sisters are getting married. I have watched family and cultural dynamics long enough to know that these marriages will last for life. My liberal friends would see them as political enemies, but this conservative Christian culture—the part I see through my extended family--keeps producing straight A students, and “til death do us part” marriages in which the “father knows best” worldview is seldom if ever questioned.

I never fit in that culture. I became a rebel long before I had any clue of what words like rebellion or counterculture meant, long before I had any conscious understanding of why I was wired to push beyond the confinements of a patriarchal culture. As he observed my growing proclivity to question authority in our West Texas cocoon, my father once told me: if you reject your father, you will reject your country, and if you turn against your country, you will turn against God.

At that time I had no thought of being “against God and country.” At age 19, I asked myself this simple question: did God give me my mind to use? When I answered yes, then I walked through a door that did lead me to question all sorts of dogma and conventional wisdom about the fathers of politics and religion. My father’s words came to seem like yet another self-fulfilling prophecy, or an airtight script.

Leaving my father’s house, and soon, his faith, and then his unquestioning patriotism, led to many freedoms. I had successful careers in journalism, song writing, political activism, teaching, and scholarship. But while acquiring a comparative perspective in California, I came to re-evaluate my own Christian family--in particular my father. Although my leftist friends talked a good talk, it was arguably people like my family back in the red states that I would want to have beside me in the trenches.

I gave my children the kinds of cultural literacy I would like to have had. They flourished, while living in my house. But in time, they in turn sought the greater stability of their mother’s house. Neither of my oldest children are religious, or particularly patriotic. Yet I am certain that they see their grandfather as a better man than their father. I myself express this freely: my parents have a giving, loving spirit which is greater than I seem capable of.

All my creative expression and critical thinking is well and good. But critical thinking has a price. Having a father or a husband who routinely thinks outside the box—who lives outside of traditional boxes--may be stimulating at times, but it can also be wearisome. So when I say matter-of-factly that my father is a better man than I, neither wife nor children disagree.

On Father’s Day 2014, my son Samuel at one moment got frustrated and told me that I had never been on his side. This has been his refrain: as a “gifted child” who was at least a year younger than his classmates, he had social problems. But when I simply listened to the reports of his teachers or other parents, he concluded that I did not have his back.

Yet I would hear indirectly through his teachers that he quoted my opinions frequently, and that he clearly admired me.

My oldest daughter Sela seldom talks to me, but seems to see her father, from a great distance, as a mythologized creative and rebellious spirit—a writer—that she now aspires to be.

Writers get to re-write their stories. For fathers, there may not be a second chance. That seems to be a part of the script.

Once when I was trying to rewrite my own script of repeated social conflict, this vision came to voice my aspiration: “The speaker calls attention to the one, and is thereby forgiven for his defects.”

By the one I mean a “greater story” in which we all participate, however defined. As a teacher, or writer, I try to re-direct attention to the “moral of the story,” as it were. I hope that by making meaning come alive, my students and readers will forgive my own limitations. This has usually been the case.

My first two children have proven unforgiving. This is an inheritance I struggle to come to terms with every day. But in my second marriage, I have earned a second chance. I have committed myself to a second incarnation of fatherhood with my second daughter, Safiya. As for the first time around, I want to believe that “time heals all wounds.” But I have left the land of the believers. Rather than putting my faith in miracles, or even redemption, I have settled for indirection. “We’ll understand it all by and by.”

Bio and contact info:

Gregory Stephens is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayag├╝ez, where his courses include Creative Writing, Post-Apocalyptic Literature and Film, and the “Romance of Revolution in Literature and Film.” Stephens has taught film, literature, and media/cultural studies at the University of South Florida (2010-12) the University of West Indies (2004-08), and the University of California. He is the author of On Racial Frontiers: The New Culture of Frederick Douglass, RalphEllison, and BobMarley (Cambridge UP, 1999). From 2013-2014 Stephens was an Assistant Professor of English at Alfaisal University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Publications drawing on experience in/study of the Middle East include “Recording the Rhythm of Change: A Rhetoric of Revolution in TheSquare,” Bright Lights Film Journal (May 2014), and “Rites of Passage in an English Class: Auto-ethnography and Coming-of-Age storiesin Cross-Cultural Contexts.” Currently, Stephens is finishing a book project: Real Revolutionaries: Revisioning the Romance of Revolution in Literature and Film. Much of his scholarship, and select journalism, is available at: