Comminications officer for the Maternal, Neonatal and Infant Health (MNIH) project Ruth Howard (second right) poses with Renea Thompson, MNIH research officer (second left) and members of the Women’s Empowerment Group, (seated from left: Charmaine Parkinson, Sonia Small, Doreen Knight, and Cynthia Stephenson-Brown, aswell as (standing, from left) Enna McDonald, Opal Dennis, Agatha Lewis, Neketa Guthrie, Aliseen Bruce, Carmeleta Hutchinson, and Joan Mendez.
AT least one group of women is urging fathers to be as active as possible in their children's lives, as mothers cannot play both roles.
Members of the Women's Empowerment (WE) Group, who are volunteers and advocates, use the Women's Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC) on Beechwood Avenue in St Andrew as their base.
They were speaking at a special meeting to discuss some of the issues facing inner-city women last week.
“Yes, we mothers can try to play the role of two parents, but we really can't do it as how a father would do their role,” said Doreen Knight, one of the core members of the group.
“Just like how a father can take care of his children in the mother's absence, but he still can't be a mother, it's the same way women can provide for their children and care for them, but they still can't be fathers,” she continued.
She encouraged fathers to do what they should for their children, in spite of the type of relationship they might have with the other parent.
“So even if you and the mother have issues, you have to step up and play your role and play your part, because fathers are very important in everyone's lives. You can see a big difference when fathers are present,” Knight stressed.
Another member of the group, Opal Dennis, used the opportunity to wish Jamaican dads a happy Father's Day, which was observed yesterday.
“Happy Father's Day to the good, good father them — the real fathers, the fathers who talk like fathers and work like fathers and act like fathers,” she said.
“But I will never wish bad for a father who is not stepping up to the plate,” she quickly added.
The comment caused the other members of the group to eye her warily, so she explained: “God has his way of giving everybody their fair share of blessings, so if a father doesn't want to support his child, I can't force him. Let him be, because a mother can never say no; even when a father can disown his child, a mother can never disown her child.
“So I still tell them happy Father's Day, and I hope God bless them and pour more blessings on them so that they can support their children,” an optimistic Dennis said, as the other members cheered in agreement.
The Women's Empowerment Group was formed last June after some of the women were trained in leadership and self-development skills as well as and health rights advocacy under a USAID-funded National Integrity Action programme and and EU-funded Partnership for the Promotion of Patients' Rights in Maternal, Neonatal & Infant Health, both of which were facilitated by WROC.
Since its formation, the group of women, who are of various ages, have been positively impacting their communities through volunteerism and advocacy.
“We wanted to help the young people in our communities, as well as develop ourselves and families, so we decided to form the group,” Dennis explained. “We have been to numerous places and we learn a lot of things, including leadership, proper etiquette, conflict resolution, time management, and how to appreciate each other. We try to resolve several conflicts in our communities, such as sending back children to school and educating people about their rights and sexual health.”
— Candiece Knight