Wordless stories can get conversations going in families

“Fathers need to attend more sessions on Early childhood development and GBV.”

Asivile is the main community-based facilitator for the “Ixesha lam noTata” programme at Sonke Gender Justice. He has been working with Sonke Gender Justice since 2017 as a facilitator and research assistant. This partnership with Sonke is part of a pilot project and research study. Asivile has been training 20 fathers over the past few months (since April 2022) on the programme, which includes giving them copies of the books, and he is uniquely placed to give us insight into the fathers’ responses to the books.

In 2021, this pilot project started by discussing with fathers what they hope to see in books that they can use with their children. One of the most common feedback from fathers is that the books did not have enough men in it, and that they only see women doing the chores in the books. They wanted men also to be represented contributing to the home, as they shared that this was a reality in their own homes. Fathers need to attend more sessions on early childhood development and GBV.

Aligned to our need to develop books that address gender normative issues, we developed the two books, and are in the process of developing a third book:

Different families come together: A book about two neighboring families who have different approaches of splitting household chores. One family has a more traditional approach, while the other has an approach that crosses gender-norms lines. The two families observe and learn from each other and the traditional family starts splitting the chores more equally in their home

Little helpers and their family: This book is about two little children who go around their neighbourhood and see some problems that the adults do not seem to notice. They then help the adults fix the problem and they are rewarded for all their help. In this book, the father is very supportive of the mother, and helps in getting the house ready in the morning before leaving home, and in the evening for supper

Do your best (not yet printed): This book is about a little girl who has many supportive adults in her life, many of whom are men who play a positive and supportive role in her daily life. Among these men are her father who goes to work, a grandfather who helps her get ready for school, a best friend who receives her help and helps her in return, a taxi driver who keeps children safe during their journey to school and an ECD teacher who encourages her and congratulates her. This book shows how men and boys can play positive roles in the lives of girls and women.

The first two books are used in Asivile’s sessions with fathers, and the fathers responded positively to having these books in the programme. They liked how the books have rich content that tells many different stories of different people, and how it can be easily used to start conversations with young children.