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23 May, 2010

FATHER'S DAY VERSUS INTERNATIONAL MEN'S DAY: DR. JEROME TEELUCKSINGH

In 2006, I attended an academic conference at the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional in Mexico. After the conference I met a young man, in a taxi, and began explaining International Men’s Day. He was eager to observe the Day because he no longer cared for Father’s Day. Why? He was diagnosed with the dreaded AIDS and given one year to live. There were negative reactions from his family. His wife took their two children and moved to another neighbourhood. His father and mother felt ashamed of him. I told him about World AIDS Day on 1 December. He said he did not want to be reminded that he had the incurable ailment. I told him that International Men’s Day shares a similarity with World AIDS Day because both days seek to eliminate prejudices and stereotypes.

International Men’s Day should not be seen as competing with Father’s Day or any other special day. One of the reasons 19th November was chosen as International Men’s Day was to honour my father. This choice of date, my father’s birthday, reinforces the inseparable link between both days. International Men’s Day and Father’s Day should not be seen as separate or strangers. Indeed, International Men’s Day can be viewed as a ‘son’ or relative of Father’s Day.

On Father’s Day and International Men’s Day we need to remember those fathers who lost a child or children in wars or crimes. Observers of both days also need to find solutions and offer emotional support to fathers who are undergoing a divorce or have lost custody battles for a child or children. During the recent global recession, millions of fathers lost their jobs and were unable to provide adequate financial support to their families. We also need to provide comfort to these fathers in distress. We should also remember the fathers in prisons or correctional facilities who are unable to see their children. Also, let us be mindful that fathers with adopted children experience the same joy as fathers with their biological children.

Should we remember women on Father’s Day? Of course. In single-parent homes, many mothers perform the role of a father to her son or children. For instance, some mothers will teach their son to play baseball or soccer, and carry him fishing. Many wives, mothers, daughters and sisters willingly support and contribute to the duties and roles of fathers. The close celebration of Mother’s Day in May and Father’s Day in June are good reminders that the world’s fathers and mothers are two important figures.

Supporters and observers of Father’s Day and International Men’s Day should also honour those men in society with fatherly roles. For instance, male teachers and principals of schools display fatherly concern for the students. Likewise, policemen act as fathers as they protect the neighbourhood, city or village. The word ‘father’ also has different meanings. An outstanding labour leader who helped form trade unions or campaigned on behalf of the working class would be referred to as the ‘father of trade unionism’ and early political leaders who helped establish democracy in a country would be referred to as ‘founding fathers’.

Undoubtedly, the objectives of International Men’s Day are shared by Father’s Day. These include celebrating men’s positive contributions to society, focusing on men’s health, promoting positive male role models and creating a harmonious society.

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