Happy Father’s Day! Even though I lost my father more than 20 years ago, he remains with me because the woman I am today has a lot to do with the father he was. My father encouraged me to excel in school, play sports, and, most importantly, speak my mind. My father was my champion. I know Ayaan also credits her father for her achievements such as allowing her to continue with her education when many of her friends were being pulled out of school and married. His political activism no doubt played a role in her becoming a politician in the Netherlands. We are a women’s organization managed by women who recognize the important role our fathers played in our lives.
Often when we speak of honor violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation, men are blamed for the violence and abuse woman and girls face. But Father’s Day is a good time to reflect on those men and boys who find themselves as young fathers and not necessarily equipped for fatherhood, who are expected to “take care” of their family as they struggle to earn a livelihood, or who find themselves conforming to traditional gender roles or embracing attitudes and norms they are not necessarily comfortable with. It is important to note that the AHA Foundation has over the years worked with men and boys who faced honor violence and forced marriage because their families were ashamed of their lifestyle and partner choices.
While fathers continue to be seen mostly as economic providers, disciplinarians and protectors within their families, we recognize that they are increasingly taking on new responsibilities including caregiving, and providing emotional support to their children, offering guidance so as to enable children to connect to their extended family and community members and participating in a variety of household activities. In the U.S. we have seen a broadening of paternal roles and as a result, we see the difference in the health and well-being of families and the role men play in the achievement of gender equality and an equal sharing of domestic responsibilities and paternal contributions to the positive social and education outcomes for children.
Today, the AHA Foundation celebrates those fathers who support gender equality and men’s participation in family life. Men and boys play a critical role in ending honor violence, whether they accept that their partners do not have to undergo female genital mutilation to ensure their virginity, or love and support their children regardless of their sexuality, or support their daughter’s education, employment and mobility and do not see such opportunities as a potential affront to their family’s or community’s “honor”. We celebrate the fathers who speak out about honor crimes because they recognize that they would not accept this for their daughters, and they do not accept that any woman or girl, regardless of their religion, culture or tradition is subject to violence and abuse.