Gender equality starts at home when men start taking responsibility by supporting and maintaining their own children.
This is the key message emphasised by Social Development Deputy Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu in her remarks on the occasion of the inaugural national Men's Parliament in Parliament, Cape Town, on Monday.
The national Men's Parliament coincided with International Men's Day, which is commemorated annually on 19 November across the world to celebrate positive male role models.
"It has become fashionable for men to outsource their responsibility to care and support their own children to government by simply registering their children for social grants.
"Government can only do so much to support vulnerable children but cannot replace or fill fathers' responsibilities towards their own children. The phenomenon of absent and ATM fathers has unfortunately become a rule rather than an exception in our society," said Bogopane-Zulu.
She called on the Men's Parliament to confront gender stereotypes and to reinforce messages that encourage fathers to take active roles in their own children's lives.
The national Men's Parliament is part of Men Championing Change, an initiative of the Department of Social Development in partnership with the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) and the Men's Sector under the Takuwani Riime Men's Movement.
The initiative is linked to the Department of Social Development's key role in the implementation of goal 4 of the national strategic plan on HIV, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections.
The Men Championing Change programme is a social and behaviour change initiative targeting men and boys with the goal to address the twin challenges of HIV and the scourge of gender-based violence in South Africa.
"Globally, it is recognised that gender inequality, harmful cultural practices and beliefs influenced by patriarchal norms and toxic masculinity are some of the social and structural factors that drive gender-based violence and the spread of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV," said the Deputy Minister.
Bogopane-Zulu also highlighted that most men in South Africa and across the globe are reluctant to seek health promoting services due to traditional cultural masculine identities and beliefs that say men must be tough and strong.
The Deputy Minister also highlighted a number of initiatives under the Men Championing Change programme that the Social Development Department will be implementing with the men's sector.
These include the positive parenting programme, shelters for men, boys' dialogue, including boys' assemblies, stigma reduction and positive masculinity.
As part of Men Championing Change, Deputy Minister Bogopane-Zulu, in partnership with the National House of Traditional Leaders will launch the Traditional Leaders as Agents of Change programme on 28 November 2018.