Liberian Dads for Gender Equality Officially Launched

Scientific research has proven that fathers make a unique and important contribution to their children's early development and life-long success.

And young children with involved fathers tend to be more patient and better able to handle stress and frustration once they're in school. Children with involved fathers are less likely to experience depression, obesity, teen pregnancy and more.

It is against this backdrop that a group of young Liberian men, all of whom are fathering kids, have embarked upon an initiative that will ensure that more men take responsibility in bringing up their children.

These group of young men, under the banner Liberian Dads for Gender Equality (LIDGE) have in no uncertain terms noted that the raising of kids is not the sole responsibility of the mothers, as fathers have their own share of this responsibility -- a role that comes with bigger dividends.

LIDGE is a dads' gender advocacy group established in January of this year. It was inspired by the "Swedish Dads" photo exhibition created by renowned Swedish photographer Johan Bavman.

A parallel Liberian Dads photo exhibition has since been carried out by the Embassy of Sweden in Monrovia. Out of the 12 Liberian Dads whose images were exhibited, three, Philip Quoqui, a social worker; Nyumah Sylvester Gborie, a Police Officer and Moses Kollie Garzeawu, a journalist, conceived the idea of establishing LIDGE.

LIDGE's mission is to provide a space for "positive male support to gender equality" which obligates members to ensure that every man understands and addresses issues hindering the growth and empowerment of women and girls.

The organization also acknowledged the technical, financial and moral support it received from the Swedish Embassy and UNICEF--two institutions with whom the program was co-created.

The launch was occasioned by the Liberian Dads Photo Exhibition; insight on the rights of fathers, children and mothers and the role of fathers in the homes and a panel discussion where panelists, many of whom are males, provided their perspectives on how they are raising this generation of children, what they think and how they feel.

Serving as the guest of honor was Swedish Ambassador to Liberia, Madam Ingrid Wetterqvist, who according to organizers, played pivotal roles in the establishment of the organization. She admonished Liberian men to get involved in raising their children as it helps make the kids better individuals.

Ambassador Wetterqvist and one of the panelists at the launch of the LIDGE

She added that back in Sweden, there are more men who are very active in taking care of their children.

The Ambassador insinuated that groups of fathers having lunch together surrounded by toddlers or pushing prams through parks are not an uncommon sight in her country.

In 1974, Sweden was the first in the world to replace maternity leave with parental leave, giving both parents the chance of time at home with their children.

The panel discussion at the launch featured some eminent Liberians who shared their experiences as well as perspectives on the raising of kids in the Liberian context. The panelists were Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Liberia, D. Jensen Seyenkulo; a Commissioner of the Independent National Human Rights Commission, Atty. Tonia Talies Wiles; Former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Elias Shoniyin; An Associate Professor at Cuttington University, Victoria Kolu Kesselie and Commissioner at the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, Atty. Kanio Bai Gbala.

Bishop Seyenkulo noted that he is not intimidated by the high level of education his wife has received as many men in the African society would, but sees it as a blessing for him and his family. He noted that he also shared in doing some domestic chores to help the woman, most especially caring for the children when he is not working.

"My wife has 2 masters but I do not feel inferior to my wife. In fact I feel blessed," he said.

Meanwhile, research shows that fathers' involvement in and influence on the health and development of their children have increased in a countless ways in the past 10 years and has been widely studied. Particular emphasis is placed on fathers' involvement across childhood ages and the influence of fathers' physical and mental health on their children. Implications and advice for all child health providers to encourage and support father involvement are outlined.

Two major socioeconomic forces, the growth in women's educational achievement and the Great Recession of 2008, with its particularly severe impact on paternal employment, have led to more fathers having the opportunities to contribute at home or to become stay-at-home dads in families in which mothers are able to sustain family income, experts have said.

These influences, paired with the dramatic cross-cultural growth in academia, lay print, social media, television, and electronic publications focusing on fathers, have stimulated public discussion around fathers and their roles in families--and with LIDGE, the discussions have begun right in Liberia.

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