The Fatherhood Project

Motivation for the project

"The Fatherhood Project is about the love that children need. But it is also about the need that fathers have to love."

The Fatherhood Project aims to recognise, encourage and support men's care and protection of children. Many people grow up without their biological father, but we all have an idea of what a father should be.

In the absence of a biological father, the father's role is often performed by older brothers, grandfathers, uncles and cousins, friends, teachers, preachers and health care workers. And, of course, by mothers too.

The Fatherhood Project acknowledges that men are often absent, neglectful, abusive and sometimes brutal. They may be self-absorbed and taken up with their own interests and careers. We know that some South African men commit acts of extreme violence against women and children. This is the dark side of fatherhood in our country.

It is also true that millions of children don't know their fathers and that many don't enjoy the protection and care of a substitute father. And yet, in a country where the image of men has taken a beating, where the absent father is the rule rather than the exception, positive images of fatherhood nevertheless remain alive in the minds and yearnings of people, young and old. 

The aims of the Fatherhood Project:

  • Provide information about men, fathers, family life and child development;
  • Influence social experiences and perceptions about men and their care for children;
  • Rally peer professional support to enable men to be more involved in children’s lives;
  • Create a sense of shared responsibility for children’s development among men and women;
  • Engender broad based and long term commitment to men’s involvement with children;
  • Identify and address barriers to men’s engagement with and protection of young children; and
  • Embark on focused research around fathers and caregiving with a view to developing community-based interventions.


How we hope to affect men:

  • To encourage men's positive responses to the care and protection of children;
  • To sensitise men to the effect that their involvement has on the well-being of children as they grow up;
  • To enable men to become actively engaged in childcare;
  • To support men in responsive, responsible and committed fatherhood;



1. Material Development:

  • Production of educative modules focusing on themes of fatherhood and caregiving, masculinity, gender-based violence, sexual risk and HIV/AIDS. This is a collaborative effort with the UKZN Psychology Masters students. These modules will eventually be disseminated through training workshops, the media and the corporate sector.
  • Publication of child reader titled “Fathers”.

2. Advocacy:

  • The main outcome is to increase visibility of the project by posting regular items on the project in all the mass media channels, as well as in programme and academic publications.
  • The dissemination of brochures, fatherhood posters and key messages.
  • Regular maintenance of the website and bibliography.
  • Publication of a monthly electronic newsletter that reflects on current fatherhood and caregiving issues.
  • Exploring the possibility of a “Fatherhood column” in a local newspaper.
  • Participation in community events such as workshops, conferences, seminars and activities that are related to the promotion of men’s care and protection of children.

3. Networking:

  • Looking to establish partnerships with a variety of organisations that advocate men’s care and protection of children, as well as with organisations concerned with HIV/AIDS.
  • Some of the organisations that we are currently working with include MensTrust, KZN Youth Empowerment Project and PACSA.

4. Enhancing Research:

  • Academic scholarship related to fatherhood forms an important focus of the Fatherhood Project.
  • We are currently working on two papers: the “Young Fathers” Study and “Children’s Voices”, both of which explore marginalised voices in understanding fatherhood within a South African context.
  • It is anticipated that some of the material generated in the “Children’s Voices” study could be used in the design of Father-child radio programmes.

5. Project Funders



Child, Youth, Family and Social Development (CYFSD)
Human Sciences Research Council
Intuthuko Junction
750 Francois Road

Private Bag X41
Fax: +27 31 242 5401