Being a father can be tricky. A new project in Gugulethu is trying to support fathers to spend more time with their children. Sharing picture-books together is a great way for dads to connect with their children.

Every month, at the Men’s Clinic next to Gugulethu Mall, a group of fathers come together to learn about book-sharing. Staff from two non-profit organizations (Sonke Gender Justice and Mikhulu Trust) help them.

Book-sharing is about using a picture-book to start a conversation with your child. You can sit together and go through the book together. It does not matter what language you speak, or whether you can read or not. Your education level does not matter either – book-sharing is easy, and anyone can do it! The special picture-books we use are available at a very cheap price, too.

The best thing about book-sharing is that it improves the bond between the adult and child. It is an easy way to create special time between you and your child. Book-sharing can be done with young children, including babies, before they are even able to speak! This has been found, by researchers, to improve the language and attention skills of young children.

Sikhangele Mabulu at the Men’s Clinic in Gugulethu, Cape Town. (Credit: Mikhulu Trust)

At the Fatherhood Project, Mikhulu Trust and Sonke Gender Justice are also trying to understand more about how we can improve relationships between fathers and children. Together with the University of Cape Town, this is a research project that can explore ways to better support fathers in South Africa.

Sikhangele Mabulu, who runs the Men’s Clinic in Gugulethu, thinks this project could help support fathers. “Many men I see are not equipped with skills to raise their children,” he says. “Children don’t only have physical needs: they need a good father-child relationship. At the Fatherhood Project, we are giving fathers tools that they can use to support their child and deepen the bond between them.”

At the beginning of the Fatherhood Project, Sikhangele noticed that many of the children were not very attached to their fathers. This attachment has started to grow the more skills that the fathers learn.

Vuyo Ntlangu of Mikhulu Trust. (Credit: Mikhulu Trust)

Vuyo Ntlangu who is managing the Fatherhood Project of Mikhulu Trust indicates that “With the ever increasing levels of violence, child abuse and neglect in our society we need responsible fathers who are genuinely invested in child development, nurturing and protection – and this Fatherhood Project brings us a step closer to affording our children the love, care and protection they deserve from their fathers.”

Book-sharing is easy, cheap and fun. If you want to try book-sharing with your child, contact Mikhulu Trust to find out more about wordless picture books (you can contact them on info@mikhulutrust.org or on Facebook @MikhuluTrust). If you want to find out more about the Fatherhood Project, please email info@genderjustice.org.za.

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Contact Info

Early Learning Centre, Athlone, Cape Town, 7764

Phone: +27 72 295 5959

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