In many cases in African countries, and perhaps in many other countries over the world, when a young girl becomes pregnant, the couple is quickly married. Therefore, many young couples under 18 are forced into a marriage due to cultural expectations or social embarrassment. Being at this very young stage of life, they are supposed to pursue their studies and build their personal and professional projects while having to try and establish the foundation of a family. One of the main reasons why families are broken after one or two years of marriage is that the couple is not prepared for the challenges of marriage and the raising of children.
For example, after a couple of months of a relationship between a 18 year old boy and 17 year old girl, they were curious of what love was about and explored sexuality, trying to answer life’s questions own their own. Their parents were not aware of the matters they were facing, and because sexual health was a taboo topic within the family, they did not understand sexual health or the consequences of engaging in sexual activities at such a young age.
The young woman became pregnant, and immediately their parents quickly organized their marriage aiming to avoid humiliation. After this, while the couple lived in one of the parents’ home because of financial issues, the young lady gave birth to a beautiful soul of baby. The husband decided to pursue his study while the wife had to feed the baby and bring him to the hospital to do vaccines and take medicines. It is actually a very common challenge that African young couples deal with in general. One year left, they divorced took place because the husband found that he still wanted to enjoy the fullness of life and youth, and viewed the baby as just a mistake like any other another.
Becoming a father is simple. It is attained by the birth of their child. A man can be a father at 16 or at 50. A man can be a father but doesn’t live with his family for many reasons. A father remains a father of his family even if he has another family at a corner of the country. A father is a status that all men can easily have.
But becoming a real father begins with learning what this means before marriage and before having a child. Most fathers learn their responsibilities in the moment, after they are married and have children. Many succeed but some fail. The biggest risk to the marriage comes especially in the first two years of marriage: divorce. The reason for divorce may be due to the husband or the wife, but regardless fathers always play huge roles in keeping the family together.
In general, the society doesn’t prepare men for what is to be a real father. Studies and jobs prepared men how to handle a good financial management, how to deal with customers, how to manage stress, and that is good. But society didn’t teach men how to show respect to their wives in the house, what violence is and what is not, and how much is the value of appreciation in the family.
In Madagascar’s case, the fathers’ presence and role in the family is very low, and very alarming.A recent survey was done this month by the Sahala Project led by a local NGO. One thousand high-school boys and girls from urban areas were interviewed about gender perception, violence and positive masculinity.Seventy percent of those young students reported that they do not receive care or support from their fathers. Whether it is an obvious unavailability of the father or a mere social isolation, nothing can justify the father’s lack of responsibility to their children.
Engaging with boys and men, and educating them on their role as well as gender equality is important and happily movement towards this is rising in many countries. If fathers are present and committed, family values and unity are better defended. Each of us is responsible for keeping the dream of a beautiful family alive and protected for today and tomorrow.