By Loren Dondo
FATHERS’ Day is a day of honouring fathers around the world and celebrating parental bonds and the influence they have on society. This year in Africa it is commemorated on the 21st of June. Father’s day was formed by Sonora Smart Dodd in 1910. Sonora Smart was the daughter of American Civil War veteran, William Jackson Smart. The young woman held her father to a high esteem and felt the need to advocate for fathers to be celebrated as much as mothers.
While father’s day complements other celebrations honouring family members such as Mother’s Day, Sibling’s Day and Grandparents’ Day, it has not been met with much enthusiasm. Compared to Mother’s Day, the day has always seemed ‘forgotten’ or ‘underrated.’ It is a cause for debate over whether or not the day is worth celebrating.
There are various reasons that Father’s Day might not be as popular as Mother’s Day. One of them being that: fathers tend to not enjoy being given flowers and gifts as it goes against their natural instinct to provide. As one historian was quoted, “father’s day attempts to domesticate men with flowers and gift-giving, and aims to sell more products which are paid for by the father himself.”
In other words, fathers might view the occasion as “cheesy.” On the other hand, Father’s Day has, somewhat, failed to make some men adapt to the idealised idea of their role in society. The idea that Father’s day has created is that of a father figure who is perfect. However, some might attest to not viewing their own fathers as perfect role models.
“Some dads brought us up to fear them not love them,” says one fellow, Tatenda. He insinuates that, as an African father, it is expected to act respectable by keeping an emotional and physical distance from your children. “I can’t speak for all fathers but this authoritarianism makes some of them come across as the strong ‘silent types’ because they were raised by tough Kings, Chiefs or warriors,” he adds.
Some might believe that fathers do not mind being overlooked because they have no fuss over being celebrated, as long as they are appreciated for putting food on the table. Therefore, Father’s day could be underrated because fathers do not make the effort to make others notice them as “perfect role models.”
Another reason Father’s Day could be underrated is that many do not have a good story to tell about their fathers.
According to a study done by professors, Dana Hamplova and Shelly Clark, single motherhood has become prevalent in Sub Saharan Africa. The professors discovered that women experience at least one episode of being a single mother ranging from 30% in Ethiopia to 70% in Zimbabwe. In all African countries, except Kenya, women are more likely to become single mothers following a divorce or death of their partner rather than premarital birth. Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the South African Race Relations Institute (SARRI) found that South Africa has 60% of children with absent fathers.
This shows that children with absent fathers are more likely to disdain Father’s Day.
Unlike Sorona Dodd, who found inspiration in the strong bond she shared with her father, others never had that privilege. However, there is still room left for children and adults who hold their fathers to high esteem. Father’s Day is a day to remember in honour of the type of father who sacrifices their free time to pick you up from school; spend the last dollar note so you could enjoy ice cream; take leave from work for your doctor’s appointment or miss a few minutes of his soccer game to hear you ask “dad can I go out to the movies on Saturday?” There is nothing underrated about a father like that.
By Loren Dondo