One is that they leave their children forever wounded. They feel embittered and rejected. In worse cases, sometimes they become rebels and defiant at home, in school and in their communities. The other is that the rest of society becomes the punching bag of their embitterment. They add to the social problems in their communities and become social nuisance.
So, as Father’s Day once again dawns on us, the pain of such neglected children who never had a taste of a father’s love is likely to flare up. Don’t such children, no matter how big they might be, wish they also had someone they could have looked up to as father?
Thousands of miles away from home, I have walked through countless shops, malls and supermarkets and tasted Father’s Day in the air. Beautiful and attractive gift ideas are all over the place. The media is full of advertisements which are giving sons and daughters cues when it comes to the appreciation of their fathers on this day. No doubt the best Dads are getting ready to put their best foot forward and why not? They have every reason to be proud of the love and care they invested and continue to invest in their sons and daughters. I celebrate my father at every given opportunity.
It was in a conversation with a friend who recently lost her father that the topic of cherished fathers versus irresponsible fathers took centre stage as we both recalled how we missed our departed fathers. As old as my friend and I are, we reminisced the good times that both of us as girls and even as mothers, had with our fathers. At the time we had them around, our fathers were genuinely there for us and even for our children as well.
That is why on occasions such as Father’s Day; those of us who had the benefit of tasting what real fatherly love is like would like to join the world to appreciate the difference fathers add to the cohesion in a family and the stability and progress in their children’s lives.
For some people, especially the men, it is the kind of fathers they had that influenced their steady progress in life as they grew up. They did not have to look outside for their role models. Their fathers were their perfect examples. We have fathers who live their lives for their children, sacrificing everything just to ensure that their children had lives better than what they had.
In some of our matrilineal societies, maternal uncles played significant roles in supporting families in the days of our parents. Such uncles were seen as the fatherly figure. Indeed, in some communities, the royals were separated from their parental homes and sent to live with their maternal uncles who became responsible for their upbringing. However, in many more homes, the devoted fathers never abdicated their responsibilities towards the upbringing of their children. They saw them as their charge and not the duty of another man.
Unfortunately, however, there are increasing numbers of sons and daughters who are growing up with no fatherly figure in their lives. Not because they did not want fathers, they simply were not there, abandoned, sort of. There are countless fathers who have relinquished their fatherly roles. Many have been denied the presence of a father in their lives growing up because their fathers left home and did not want to know. There are also those who never saw their fathers right from birth.
Occasions such as Father’s Day is to me, an opportunity to name and shame all those who have had the God-given opportunity to father children, yet, turn their backs to such a blessing. These days, there are increasing numbers of such characters in our society and one wonders why the law is not being used to chase them and save those children caught up in all those quagmire of irresponsible fatherhood and the resultant social problems thereof.
When recently I visited the offices of the Domestic Violence and Child Support Unit (DOVSU), attached to the Ministries Police Station in Accra to follow up on some information, the crowd that I met from downstairs, up the stairs, in the tiny corridor and in some of the offices, was quite puzzling. All of them had come to DOVSU with one domestic problem or the other. My enquiries revealed that most were on domestic abuse and child neglect.
I wondered why all these women would troop to DOVSU if we had laws supportive and good enough to get delinquent fathers who had abandoned their homes and responsibilities to see reason and contribute to the financial upkeep of their children. As is done elsewhere, how much of a problem is it for the Department of Social Welfare to be involved and push the agenda for court enforcements for some percentage of the salaries of fathers who abandon their children to be taken at source as child support and or maintenance for example?
I sat on an interview panel some weeks back to identify needy, brilliant girls to give them educational opportunities and exposures. Boy, the sad and horrifying stories of neglect and abandonment that some children go through are startling. The dangerous exposures such as rape, incest and other forms of defilement that abandoned children face in their lives each day.
They are all happening to our future leaders because one father or two have been neglectful.
Our society is gathering a mass of single women who are sweating it out each day just so that they can put food on the table for their families. There are equally a number of children and young adults out there in the open who are victims of broken homes and of fathers who never accepted them as their blood children. Invariably, where the mothers are not strong enough to support them, the children get crushed sometimes falling into bad company.
Miles away from home and having come into contact with some Ghanaian immigrants, for me, the worst form of fathers in our society are those men who leave their families behind in search of greener pastures with the promise of better life for the family. When the grass on which they finally find themselves go greener, they forget the families they have left behind and in some cases, even go ahead to start another family with the pretext of seeking to regularise their stay. These are truisms and such fathers should be tracked down and made to face the consequences.
It certainly looks like our society breeds and encourages irresponsible behaviours from fathers. Now, more than ever, our social welfare system should begin to be active and running because society is changing fast. They should work seriously with our schools and families and above all, our family protection laws to begin to track down those fathers who abandon their roles and leave problem children behind.
Much as societal progress depends on stable families and communities, we should begin to look more into the direction of a stable family system.
The days of “abusua nkye mfa” or leaving it to the extended family to fix problems of dilemma children are gone forever. Each one is for himself and that is why systems set in place such as the social welfare and DOVSU should always be strengthened and empowered to work tirelessly to tackle the problem of irresponsible fathers with all seriousness and never say it is a family affair. They are the beginnings of and antecedents to most of our societal problems.