For the good of children and families, it is high time certain common policies and restrictions placed on men’s attendance at prenatal visits or in the delivery room during childbirth are abolished, says a new report by Voices of Change (V4C), an indigenous non-governmental organization (NGO)based in Abuja.
The report, which was released a few days ago, said such restrictions are contributing to the notion that parenting and childcare are the sole domain of women. Conversely, improved paternity leave policies have enormous potential to unravel widely held views that men have little to no role to play in childcare.
“Due partially to hospital policy as well as prevailing social norms, the majority of surveyed men were not present in the hospital for the birth of their last child. And thereafter, 80 percent of fathers in the study took no leave after the birth of their last child,” the report stated.
The report therefore recommended that more Nigerian institutions should follow the lead of the Lagos State Government, which recently approved a ten-day paternity leave for male civil servants. It further noted that additional research is also needed to investigate the differing perspectives of men and women on men’s participation in childcare.
Women and men in the study agreed that most men tend to play with their children or discipline them on a regular basis, but do not consistently contribute to childcare in other ways. However, according to the findings, men with the highest levels of education and the most equitable gender attitudes were also most likely to play an equal or greater role in childcare.
Moreover, women and men who have attained higher levels of education also tended to embody more gender-equitable attitudes and practices, indicating that the education system can be particularly influential by advancing more equitable gender-related perspectives in curricula at all levels.
Overall, the study paints a rich, varied picture of gender dynamics in Nigeria, demonstrating various ways in which the traditional gender order may be changing in Nigeria, while many findings also show that rigid, patriarchal gender norms and dynamics still hold sway.
Among study participants, for example, agreement with inequitable norms about roles in the household was nearly universal, and violence against women was widely tolerated. The report added:
“Some 91 percent of women and 94 percent of men agreed that ‘a woman’s most important role is to take care of her home and cook for her family while over two thirds of all respondents agreed that ‘a woman should tolerate violence to keep her family together’.”
These widely held attitudes lead to women’s subjugation by men and contribute significantly to gender inequality and gender-based violence in society. According to the researchers, these findings call for widespread community-level awareness, education, and mobilisation programmes and campaigns that focus on changing attitudes, practices and relationships towards gender inequity.
Gender-equitable, non-violent families and societies can bring many benefits to men and women alike. Among other examples, the findings show that boys raised in homes where their fathers frequently participate in a wide range of domestic work and do not use violence are more likely to grow up to become nonviolent, involved fathers and partners themselves, with benefits spreading across families and generations.
Report writers concluded:
“Findings like these provide valuable lessons, showing how we can get more men and women engaged and working together in efforts to inspire true equity and gender justice across Nigeria and the rest of the world.”