On Father’s Day we celebrate the important men who provide us with support and encouragement.
Like many dads around the world, when Gerald’s first child was born he felt unprepared; his wife, Fridah, had a difficult pregnancy and their baby daughter was frequently ill after birth.
The family live in a village in central Kenya, where pregnancy and childbirth are private and not openly discussed, so Gerald had no one to turn to for help or advice. He felt frustrated and alone and therefore pushed his family away.
Gerald Kimani and his wife Fridah Mwari with their children, Amanda and Steve.
Parental support groups
When Fridah got pregnant for a second time, a nurse suggested she join a mother-to-mother support group, started by our partner, the Anglican Development Service Mount Kenya East (ADSMKE). Soon afterwards, Gerald discovered similar classes run for fathers.
Taught by a local nurse, Alice Karoki, with support from ADSMKE, the classes teach parents about subjects such as nutrition, hygiene and how to keep your family healthy.
Gerald says the classes taught him how to be a father.
‘I am very happy now,’ he said. ‘It’s like two different lives – before I went to the group and after. It’s very nice to be close to my children.
‘The father-to-father group helped me a lot because before I didn’t know things about the family, about taking care of my children and loving my wife and providing for them.’
‘Love your children and love your wife. It’s your choice.'
Challenging social norms
Some of what Sister Alice taught the men, like helping their wives in the home, went against their social and cultural upbringing.
‘The first time we met things weren’t easy,’ Gerald explains. ‘Our teacher was a woman. We thought, how can a lady teach men? She told us about what men can do in the home. She told us, “Here it’s not about men and women, it’s about learning how to care for our families.”’
As Sister Alice discovered, if you aim to improve the health of mothers and children, you can’t leave fathers out of the picture.
Alice says: ‘When I started the mother-to-mother classes the women told me, “Yes we are being taught things but our men are not letting us do them at home”. I said what should I do? They said teach our men too.’
Sister Alice has seen big changes in the community’s health.
‘Before there were many cases of diarrhoea,’ she explains. ‘Now diarrhoea has almost gone thanks to education and treatment of water.
‘And malnutrition is becoming much less of a problem. People know how to make their diets better.’
Passing on learning
Smiling at his baby son, Gerald has some fatherly advice for the future.
‘When he grows up, finishes education and wants to be a man I will sit down with him and tell him what I was taught and what I now realise. He will learn from us. I will tell him: love your children and love your wife. It’s your choice.’
This ADSMKE project was funded with the support of UK aid.
What you can do
Share this article