Positive fatherhood: Stories of Syrian and Lebanese men
Nazir’s wife gave birth to their first child in Syria, when he was already here in Lebanon. He is waiting for them to join him so he can meet his child and hold him in his arms.
Though Nazir doesn’t know when his dream will come true, he is already practising his role as father, and is preparing necessities for his child. He has bought a bed, a milk bottle and some toys. Although he and his baby have only met through images, he acts as though they are joined under one roof. He says:
“I wanted to get involved with these sessions to get an idea of how to treat my child. I particularly benefited from learning from other men of all ages.”
I have always been an open person so had no problem discussing relationships and emotions.
“I have always been the one giving advice to my friends about their relationships – though before I got married myself they would joke about taking advice from a single man! Now I’m passing on to these same friends ideas about the role of the father, gender equality and so on.”
I also call out my friends if they make a degrading comment about women. Women and men are equal.
“It’s funny how views change through time. Ten years ago, it would have been culturally inappropriate for a man to walk down the street hand in hand with his son. Now, it’s becoming acceptable.”
Forty-year-old Kamal, from Lebanon, has two daughters, aged 12 and 4. To support his family, he works two jobs: a company driver by day, a taxi driver by night.
Kamal says that he used to be too tired to spend time with them and if they asked him to talk, he’d often put it off until later. But participating in CARE’s Positive Fatherhood project has led him to question his responsibilities as a father and his approach to his children.
Now, even if I’m really tired, I sit and attend to their needs. I ask how their days have gone. I give them affection – hugs and kisses. I realise it makes a whole lot of difference.
“I have to provide for my family, so sometimes I can’t help at certain moments. But if that’s the case then I will try to help later on. During weekends, I will take the day off, or half days, and will take my children to the beach or for walks.”
Kamal stumbled upon the project’s discussion sessions by accident, but is so pleased that he did. “I heard different people’s points of view. It was a space for me and others to voice our opinions and our struggles,” he says.
Listening to other people’s stories has given me a coping strategy, so now I know that if I find myself in a similar situation, I can draw on solutions we discussed. Life is one big lesson!
*name has been changed
Fifty-one year old Nasser (above) is a taxi driver from Tripoli, Lebanon. He grew up in the chaos of the country’s civil war, which lasted for 15 years. He abandoned his schooling to work to support his family, and as a result never learned to read or write.
Taking part in CARE’s Positive Fatherhood project made him determined that his five children have better opportunities than he did. He says:
“I wish for my children a better life. I want them to finish their education. Abeer is currently studying accounting, and I hope she will continue and go to university. As long as they want to get an education, I will support them no matter what.”
Shadi (above) and his family came to Lebanon from Syria in 2012. As a child, he was one of the best in his class, and wanted to become a civil engineer, but he had to quit school and work to support his family.
He says that CARE’s Positive Fatherhood sessions have changed the way he engages with his family: he speaks to his wife and son in a softer tone, and helps out in the kitchen. He hopes that his children have better opportunities than he did growing up:
“I hope that my children will be good, polite, and that people love and respect them. But mostly, I hope they will grow up to be successful.”
Father-of-three Jamal (above) has learned a lot about his role through discussion groups with other fathers in his home town of Tripoli, Lebanon. He says:
“Fatherhood is about your attitude, and moral standards. Our family’s economic situation has an impact on how we as fathers deal with our responsibilities.”
Each generation holds different responsibilities. The way we deal with children today is not the same as when I was growing up. There are new ways of disciplining them.”
“With the support of my parents, I was able to achieve my goals in life which were to get married, raise a family, and get my opportunities in life.”
“I hope that my daughters will be successful and continue their education and that my son will be obedient and a hard worker.”
Khaled (above) is the father of two girls. The Positive Fatherhood project also taught photography skills as a way of bringing the men together and helping them to focus on their families. During the project, he hosted the group photography sessions at his house, so he feels his wife and children have absorbed some photography skills too. As Nasser, who also took part in the photography training, says:
“My family was very happy that I participated. Maya, the trainer, used to take us outdoors to take photos of plants, gardens and children. I showed my children how to do that. Maya taught me and I taught my children!”
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