July 15, 2024

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REAL Fathers: Young fathers’ graduation marks milestone in Ending domestic violence

160 young fathers from Gatsibo District graduated, on June 12 from the REAL (Responsible, Engaged, And Loving) Fathers, an evidence-based parenting programme that addresses violence against children, parenting and intimate partner violence.

Over the course of its seven-month mentoring programme, young fathers in the REAL Fathers project received training on seven key themes: fatherhood, becoming a REAL Father, family dreams, loving my family, communication, family planning, and parenting.

As a significant milestone, 16 couples were civilly married as part of an initiative to create safer, conflict-free households.

Samuel, one of young fathers legally engaged, highlighted that before the project, his family was slowly deteriorating. He attributes his positive transformation to the project’s training sessions, which contributed to the revival of his relationship and personal growth.

He stated, “My family was on the brink due to daily conflicts. We faced extremely challenging times. I used to spend all our family income on alcohol and gambling. I even physically abused my wife.”

“Through the educational sessions that I attended, I realised I needed to change to improve my family relationships with my wife and children. Now, we have successfully formalised our commitment legally. Today, I am dedicated to expressing love and care for my family.”

His wife, Denyse, affirmed that their family life has significantly improved, particularly in nurturing their children.

She said, “My children and I experience love from their father. One positive outcome is that we work together, taking responsibility for raising our children. For instance, our child, who had dropped out for school previously, is now back in school without any challenges.”

Similarly, Theogene, aged 29, and his 28-year-old wife, Frida, managed to purchase a flour mill for Rwf 950,000 after Theogene shifted from personal financial planning to seeking his wife’s advice for the sake of the family’s development. To date, the family can save Rwf 42,000 per month from their business.

For the 2023/2024 cohort of REAL (Responsible, Engaged, And Loving) Fathers project, a total of 480 young fathers graduated, on June 11-14, 2024, across Gatsibo, Bugesera and Nyaruguru Districts.

Authorities speak out

Marceline Mukamana, Vice Mayor of Gatsibo District in charge of Social Affairs, acknowledged the presence of domestic conflicts in families. However, she emphasized that collaborative efforts with different partners contribute to identifying and promoting harmony.

“We are pleased that the district and our partners actively engage with families. Approximately 692 have already emerged from conflicts their commitment legally during different seasons, including today.”

Marceline also highlighted that there were 214 households currently experiencing conflicts, a situation, as she notes, that adversely affects family development, children, and even neighbours.

“Families in conflict often witness their children suffering, dropping out of school, and facing malnutrition. The lack of communication and joint care responsibilities among parents exacerbates these challenges,” she remarked.

Solomon TesfaMariam, Interim Country Director of Plan International Rwanda, urged young fathers to be catalysts for positive changes.

“Young fathers, as we celebrate your achievements, we recognize that your journey does not end here. Now, you are ambassadors of change and champions of nurturing care, contributing to a brighter, more equitable future for Rwanda’s families and children.”

About the project

The REAL Fathers project is implemented by Plan International Rwanda in partnership with Georgetown University under the Gender Transformative Programming for Advancing Care for Children in Adversity project funded by USAID’s Partnerships Plus project through JSI. By increasing fathers’ confidence and role in caregiving for young children, this project strengthens overall nurturing of young children in the family.

The research study conducted in Bugesera and Nyaruguru Districts during the first phase of the project from 2021-2022 provided strong support for the effectiveness of REAL Fathers project. There was a significant reduction in young fathers’ use of violent discipline after participation in the project. Overall, men’s use of any form of violent discipline in the past three months—psychological aggression, physical punishment, and harsh physical punishment—declined from 54 percent at baseline to 33 percent at endline: a 39 percent reduction.

Men also increased their nurturing care of children under-five through activities such as playing, reading books, telling stories, and singing songs.This positive engagement is important for children’s social, emotional, and mental development.

Men’s overall reported use of any emotional, physical, or sexual intimate partner violence (IPV) in the past three months reduced from 23 percent at baseline to 11 percent at endline. Similarly, women’s reported experience of any IPV in the past three months reduced from 44 percent at baseline to 24 percent at endline.

The study also assessed participants’ exposure to violent discipline and IPV during childhood, finding evidence that it is common and is a risk factor for future violence.

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