During a recent policy dialogue related to gender rights in the workplace, it was unanimously admitted that paternity leave still faces a number of challenges and one concrete way to advance the leave for workers whose spouses have given birth is to dig deep into barriers, gaps and challenges hampering the paternity leave to be effective from all fronts including policy and community levels. In recognition of the potential for fathers to positively contribute to early childcare, Rwamrec and RCSP have commissioned this Rapid assessment to document legislative gaps and other factors, attitudes and behaviors inhibiting male engagement in early childhood care, on one hand and paternity leave, on the other hand.
The assessment aims to study legislative gaps, barriers and challenges affecting father’s involvement in the childhood care from a perspective of experts, practitioners and other related grey literature.
The ultimate objective was to formulate recommendations for an effective fatherhood in general and increased use of paternity leave in the best interest of children for healthy families in Rwanda. The ultimate ambition would be to helping the Government of Rwanda, Rwamrec and other gender actors to develop programs, strategies and interventions that better address certain potentially harmful social norms related to father involvement. In terms of methodology used so far, the rapid assessment adopted a largely qualitative approach using both primary and secondary data sources. It involved key informant interviews at national level, including with national authorities of gender machinery, gender practitioners, trade union leaders, opinion leaders, gender activists.....
In terms of key findings, while recognizing exceptional cases of effective involvement of fathers in early steps of the child, it is obvious that certain cultural commonalities are evident as a result of prevailing gender norms, attitudes and behaviors in Rwanda. It is common in Rwandan culture to see women taking on the bulk of responsibility for parenting, especially in the early years. From conception onwards, mothers will take a lead in almost all aspects of childcare. The part played by fathers, however, is far less visible. The rapid assessment also shows that more often, Rwandan mothers maintain a proximate and hands-on relationship with babies throughout their infancy. Nevertheless, it seems from the findings that fathers are implicated in a wide range of ‘behind the scenes’ work to support the mother, especially when the child reaches the age of walking and talking and are less involved the first steps of the baby.
Nevertheless, the lack of engagement by fathers is particularly prominent and is explained by several key factors :
A limited policy and legislative environment that seems to deny to fathers the same amount of leave period to father workers as shown in this rapid assessment ;
The primacy of a patriarchal culture that dictates the division of labor between mothers and fathers ; Maternal “Gatekeeping” as an additional barrier to the involvement of men in caregiving activities ;
A lack of knowledge amongst both men and women about the potential benefits of father engagement ;
The reinforcement of existing gender stereotypes through female dominated early childhood service provision ;
Key Recommendations : Given the various individual, familial and societal benefits of increased father involvement in early childhood, several recommendations are put forth, some inspired by promising practices from the field. These include :
Aggressive awareness-raising at national and local levels through all available and existing forums where community members meet and discuss community issues (Umugoroba w’umuryango, intego y’abaturage,….) ;
The promotion of champions and ‘positive deviance’ role models to inspire young men and fathers ;
Incentivizing father involvement and male engagement especially through the family performance contracts ;
Investing in an evidence base to provide data on positive outcomes for children, families, and communities as a result of increased father involvement ;
Evolving national policy including labor laws and policies and monitor their implementation ;
POLICY BRIEF : Overcoming the barriers, filling the gaps and addressing challenges to make paternity leave a living reality in Rwanda.