Oxfam's 'I Care About Her' project was launched in 2012 to tackle issues of gender based violence, rape, and early marriage amongst many other issues related to the inequalities women are currently facing in Zambia. Through the project 'champions' are identified in selected communities who are then responsible for working with up to 20 men, organising discussion groups, community 'Action Cards' and individual 'Action Plans'. Once a year all of the communities taking part in the project are invited to join a rally or march to spread the word about the project and reach out to a wider group of men. Over 1500 men took part in the 2014 march. Alex says: 'I want to thank Oxfam for the lessons on the cards; they have bought us some sanity. There are many myths in the community before, like beating your wife brings you respect. We must put them aside.' 'My wife recently died and now I am looking after our daughter. It is because of my love for Ethel that I am taking part in this project. I believe that when people see me looking after Ethel they see me as a good example for the community. I bring my daughter to the discussions as well, I believe it is a good lesson for her.'

Two Dads’ Hopes For Their Daughters’ Future

For International Women’s Day, Oxfam approached me with an intriguing proposition. Knowing that I often write about my hopes and aspirations for our daughter, and the potential barriers in her way because of her gender, they put me in touch with another dad of a little girl.

He is Alex Namusokwe (37), who is the father of Ethel (7). They live in rural Zambia, about 200 km from Zambia’s capital Lusaka.

Like me, Alex is the prime carer for his daughter – but in his case it is because his wife passed away. While we are from very different cultures & parenting circumstances, there is much we have in common.

Caring so closely for his daughter has seen his awareness about women’s issues, the fight for gender equality, and a commitment to not limiting the aspirations of his daughter grow – just like me.

He says Ethel is “a very intelligent girl determined to make a difference in our society… I would love her to become a professional lawyer or medical doctor in future.” These are big dreams for a father & daughter like Alex & Ethel.

While there are many similarities, this makes the differences even more stark. I don’t have the to deal with issues like child marriage. I worry about gendered marketing – Alex is concerned about “high levels of gender based violence” in his society.

While I’m concerned about whether our daughter gets into our choice of the great local schools in the area, Alex is worried about Ethel’s future schooling – there are no high schools at all in his area (he is campaigning for one).

When Ethel finishes her education, the challenges continue. Alex says “Our traditional leaders prefer men in certain positions and politically women are threatened if they compete with men… Further when it comes to gender equity, girls are seriously disadvantaged in land allocations as only men are allocated traditional land.”

As a stay-at-home dad, I get narked about being referred to as a babysitter or giving mum a break. I was curious about how his community views him. “I receive a lot of criticisms especially from illiterate villagers… some have even gone to an extent of bringing a wife for me to re-marry just to make sure my daughter is taken care of by a female figurehead!”

But he also receives “a lot of praise from enlightened community members” and is “viewed as a good and caring, protective father”. He knows of only 2 other dads who take care of their daughters in the same way (who he tries to support as well).

But how has being so close to his daughter influenced him? He says “My experience with my daughter has really changed my personal views about girls and I now know that they can be anything they want to be.”

“People say she behaves like a boy” says Alex. I sense that rather than being something I would balk at, this is something Alex takes pride in. In the society that Alex describes, I get it – and would see this as a huge compliment, relaying it to my daughter as such.

Our Hopes For Our Daughters on International Women’s Day

So we both have big hopes for our daughters, but see many barriers in their way – however my issues have ‘First World Problems’ stamped all over them. But Alex is a committed dad, and passionate member of his community trying to affect change. While I can be thankful for the advantages my daughter begins with in life, Alex’s commitment is also inspirational in working to effect the change we seek.

And like Alex, I hope for nothing less than the best for his daughter in the future.

Oxfam's 'I Care About Her' project was launched in 2012 to tackle issues of gender based violence, rape, and early marriage amongst many other issues related to the inequalities women are currently facing in Zambia. Through the project 'champions' are identified in selected communities who are then responsible for working with up to 20 men, organising discussion groups, community 'Action Cards' and individual 'Action Plans'. Once a year all of the communities taking part in the project are invited to join a rally or march to spread the word about the project and reach out to a wider group of men. Over 1500 men took part in the 2014 march.

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Disclosure: This is an unpaid collaborative post with Oxfam

For more on International Women’s Day see their website.

Photos courtesy of Oxfam/Kieran Doherty

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About ‘I Care About Her’

Alex is an ambassador of a project called I Care About Her which educates dads about gender inequality, domestic violence, rape and early marriage. He is one of around 20 men working to raise awareness in their communities by organising discussion groups and other activities.

The Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) has received funding support from Oxfam to implement the I Care about Her (ICAH) campaign in partnership with the Zambia Police, Zambia National Women’s Lobby Group, and Forum for Women Educationalist in Zambia since 2012.

The I Care About Her Campaign has emerged as a best practice in mobilising men and boys in preventing and ending gender based violence and has over the time of its implementation garnered massive support from men and boys from all walks of life.

Prevention of Violence against women and engaging men as agents of change is a necessary and strategic intervention in contributing towards eliminating this scourge. The Campaign has picked up momentum in creating a mass movement of men and boys taking action to create positive transformational attitudinal change that embrace gender sensitive norms which spurn violence as a means of resolving conflicts.

12 thoughts on “Two Dads’ Hopes For Their Daughters’ Future”

  1. What a frankly brilliant blog post. I wish all the best for Alex and Ethel. It certainly puts my concerns for my daughters into perspective. I think Alex is a very inspirational character. I wish them both all the very best for their future. A brillaint awareness raising campaign by Oxfam too.

    1. Thanks John, I found it at once humbling and inspirational in continuing to seek some change own behalf of my daughter.

  2. I love this post. How inspiring and eye-opening to speak to Alex about what life is like for him and his daughter in Zambia. Some of the struggles they face make me so sad. It really puts things in perspective.
    I do think it’s important to fight the first world gender battles too though, because the more of those we can defeat, the more equality becomes normal and the closer we can get to bigger battles.
    Great post.

    1. I agree, the point (I hope) I made was that while there is an element of putting the problems I write about into perspective Alex is also inspirational in being a dad campaigning about gender issues. Thanks for reading and the kind words 🙂

    1. Thanks Jeremy. Yes, it was very different for me but yet very much in line with what I blog about. Certainly thought provoking putting it together!

  3. I love this post. Mainly because I left some of my heart in Zambia when I was there on a mission trip four years ago. Since then I’ve written a book in Bemba and English which has been sold here and given to over 200 Zambian children, and we sponsor a child near Ndola. Going to Zambia and speaking to people I met there most weeks keeps me clear about what matters in life.

  4. Fascinating post and it reminds me how much I still miss one of my old jobs in an international development charity. I remain in awe of people who stand up to outdated attitudes in environments where the odds are stacked up against them so much more than they are here.

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