CAPE TOWN (SA)
POVERTY AND ABSENT PARENTS
Poverty can make parenting a very difficult task and many parents in South Africa face considerable barriers in their efforts to raise their children. Poverty reduces the ability to provide adequate nutrition on a consistent basis. It increases the stress that parents experience when trying to protect their children, and leads sometimes to emotionally distant and inconsistent parenting. Often poorly educated parents struggle to access good educational opportunities for their children and support their development. In every way poverty can significantly undermine parenting, decrease the life chances of children, and thereby transmit poverty from one generation to the next.
African societies have been known for their strong family support systems that view children as society’s future and a responsibility for all. The Apartheid system, labour migration, racial segregation, urbanization, western economic systems have contributed to the destruction of extended family structures and the traditional support systems. Today South Africa has an exceptionally high number of broken families and approximately half of the children in the country are living without daily contact with their fathers. Father absence may not necessarily be ascribed to negligent or disengaged fathers. Far from being an isolated phenomenon, the disengagement from their children’s lives, is intricately connected to historical, social, economic and cultural contexts. Colonialism left a lasting mark on the predominant notions of masculinity and fatherhood. High unemployment rates are forcing man into labour migration. Also young mothers migrate in search of employment to support their child, leaving the child in the care of family or siblings.
How do children cope with the difficulties related to living without caregivers, and how they are perceived and treated by society? Without a doubt they are at greater risk of malnutrition, illness, abuse and sexual exploitation. In meeting their daily needs these children experience hardship, uncertainty and anxiety. Very young, they are forced to develop survival tactics and courageously take up the responsibilities of providing and caring for each other. Support and understanding amongst the siblings is a major source of strength for these children, working together in ensuring the running and functioning of their family. Despite all the obstacles they are capable of building resilience and achieving positive development. Their stories are at the core of the Cape Town edition of 10CHILDREN