Gary Barker, Ph.D.
Founder and International Director, Promundo
This post is part of theGlobal Moms Relay. Every time you share this post,Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 (per action), up to $325,000, to four causes helping improve the health and wellbeing of moms and kids worldwide:MAMA,Shot@Life,U.S. Fund for UNICEF andGirl Up. Scroll to the bottom to find out more.
One of my most endearing moments when my daughter was four years old was coming home and finding her and a group of her friends waiting for me to play Pretty, Pretty Princess with them. For those who don’t know the game, you spin the arrow and accumulate earrings, a ring, a necklace and, to win, a tiara. My daughter and her friends deliberately skewed the game so that I would be declared princess. They roared in laughter at the father who would allow them to pin the jewelry on.
I’m not sure if fathers playing Pretty, Pretty Princess is the secret to empowering our daughters, but it just might be part of the solution.
Research from around the world is piling up to show that fathers matter. It’s proven that when men are engaged in prenatal visits, it’s more likely that mothers will deliver their child with a skilled birth attendant, survive childbirth, seek better care after the baby is born, and breastfeed. Reaching men as partners in prenatal visits has proven so successful for the health of mothers and children, that the public health sectors in Brazil and Rwanda are rolling out programs at the national level. Children with involved fathers also do better in school and are more emotionally healthy.
As fathers, we support equality for women by doing what should be obvious: taking on our fair share of caring for our children. Globally, women and girls spend 2-10 times the amount of time caring for children and handling domestic duties than men and boys. When men do their share, women’s income rises. A study in Sweden found that women’s income rose by 7 percent for every month that the father took paternity leave. If women participated in the labor market at the same rates as men do, it is estimated that the gross domestic product (GDP) could increase in the United States by 5 percent, and in Egypt by 34 percent.
As fathers, we matter tremendously for our daughters. Studies in the US find that when fathers participate more equally in the home, our daughters aspire to non-traditional careers. Other studies find that daughters with more involved fathers are less likely to experience unwanted sex. When fathers are more involved in the home, their sons are more likely to support and believe in women’s equality and treat their future partners with more respect.
Every day around the world, we as fathers make decisions about the future of our daughters – whether they stay in school, marry too early (or against their will), whether we treat their mothers with respect, or whether we support our daughters to pursue their dreams and see themselves as competent and powerful.
Today, Promundo and partners are launching the first-ever State of the World’s Fathers report. It’s a call to men around the world to be involved every day in the care of children, whether as biological fathers, residential or non-residential fathers, adoptive fathers, and in heterosexual families or same-sex partner families. We call on governments and workplaces to support all parents in caring for their children. We make recommendations about the need for paid, and equal parental leave for mothers and fathers. We call for engaging men as partners in doing half the care work and being full partners in maternal and child health. We also call for reaching boys early to teach them to be equitable caregivers just as we teach our daughters to have careers.
We also affirm this: our lives as men are richer when we do our share in caring for our families. Men who do more caregiving live longer, are healthier, are less likely to be arrested and have better relationships with their partners.
Did playing Pretty, Pretty Princess with my daughter when she was four help her become the amazing young woman she is today? That I don’t know, but I adored playing the game as much as she and her friends did.
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