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In celebration of Father’s Day on Sunday, we are excited to feature a post by guest author, Doug French. He is a blogger and founder of the Dad 2.0, Summit, an annual conference designed to foster open conversation about the changing voice and perception of modern fatherhood. He is among a group of dad bloggers committed to the idea that men’s caregiving must be on the front-line in the still-incomplete gender-equality revolution. This is the first of a series of blogs we will be featuring as part of a collaboration between ONE and the Dad 2.0 community.

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Chelsea Clinton opened Tuesday’s launch of the first-ever “State of the World’s Fathers” report, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, saying, “One of the great joys of becoming a mother has been watching my husband become a father.” Moreover, in the report’s forward, UN Women Executive Director Phumzie Mlambo-Ngcuka cites her dad’s influence on her life and career, writing: “I know first-hand that fathers can play a critical role in women’s empowerment and in promoting gender equality.”

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Dad with his daughter at a golf tournament in Durban, South Africa. Photo credit: Getty

However, Promundo Director Gary Barker, who spoke alongside Chelsea Clinton, quickly honed in on the problem when he emphasized the jarring thought that, “at the current rate of progress, it will be 80 years before fathers and mothers share the burden of parenting equally.”

Campaign Global Co-coordinator Wessel van den Berg (left) and musician David Mathenge aka Nameless during the launch of the State of the World’s Fathers 2015 report at Sarova Panafric Hotel in Nairobi Thursday. [PHOTO: NYARONDA MOTSI/STANDARD Read more at: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2000166246/report-says-kenyan-father-s-role-in-children-s-lives-can-promote-gender-equality

New York wasn’t the only site of a report launch event. MenCare Campaign Global Co-coordinator Wessel van den Berg (left) and musician David Mathenge aka Nameless attended a launch in Nairobi. Photo credit: Nyaronda Motsi/Standard

Those of us at the event, hosted by the MenCare global fatherhood campaign, knew from the start that the day’s discussions would be as much about fathers as about the women and girls they influence so profoundly.

The report does offer reasons to celebrate. An involved dad helps his children thrive, by setting a positive example for his sons and promoting greater equality for his daughters. And study after study corroborates how (as Stephen Marche wrote in Esquire) “fathers spending time with their children results in a better, healthier, more educated, more stable, less criminal world.”

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Despite this encouragement, however, the report (which you can download here) also offers myriad reminders of how much more work there is left to do, citing sobering facts, such as:

  • The global payment gap between men and women is estimated at 24%;
  • Approximately one in three women suffers some form of physical violence at the hand of her partner;
  • Women now comprise 40% of the global work force, but the reciprocal effort of men to take on more unpaid work at home has not kept pace.

The report also finds that, “women’s unpaid care burden has the greatest impact on the poorest in society for whom additional time and income could make the most difference. A study of poor women in Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, and Uganda found that women living in poverty carry heavier workloads than men in all four countries, across both rural and urban communities”.

As jarring as these and other data points are, the report lays out several courses of action and advocacy to help shift some of the stagnant or negative momentum. Boys who witness violence against their mothers and sisters are overwhelmingly likely to grow into men who inflict similar punishment on their own families, but we can counsel younger generations to help end the cycle of violence. Sexual and reproductive diseases are still widespread in low- to middle-income countries, but we can engage and educate men to become equal partners in the planning and raising of their families.

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South Africa. Photo credit: Rombles.com

It wasn’t too long ago when dads were routinely portrayed in media as clueless and disinterested parents. Now, however, that messaging is reversing course, and engaged fathers are being called upon to take part in movements such as #HeForShe and #LeanInTogether, in order to upend some of the deepest-rooted impressions of and attitudes toward masculinity, and relieve the many undue burdens on women.

The Dad 2.0 Summit community has been working hard to help make all this happen. And to see MenCare compile this report so comprehensively, to be put in the hands of people with the power to effect a lot of positive change, feels like a gigantic leap forward.

So this Sunday I will be celebrating this step forward while I continue working towards the next. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!

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