On the backdrop of having celebrated the gift of mothers, this past Sunday, we will be celebrating the 19th year since the United Nations advocated for the centrality of family life within our communities.
The International Day of Families is observed on the 15th of May every year and was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in its resolution 47/237 of 1993. The International Day provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families and increase the knowledge of the social economic and demographic processes affecting families.
The family is regarded as the basic and natural unit of society which plays a critical role of nurturing and caring for individual family members from children to youth, men, women, people living with disabilities and the other generations. The family needs to be protected, supported and strengthened to enable them to perform its other essential functions of providing economically for its members.
The theme, “ENSURING WORK FAMILY BALANCE” focuses on reconciling work and family life.
Families find it more and more difficult to reconcile the competing necessities of their work and fulfilling other family responsibilities such as caring for children, older relatives, or those who are terminally ill.Both men and women are engaged in gainful employment however the burden of care is mostly experienced by women, which is a fact that needs more attention in the context of both policy and legal framework.
The socio economic demands placed on family to care for its members can have an adverse effect on the functionality of the family. Those living in poverty as well as poor single parent families which are predominately female headed are worst affected. Finding suitable work and family life balance is a challenge faced by all parents (single or married). This can result in strained relationships marital disputes, poor parenting and sometimes neglect of children.
A crisis in child rearing has developed in part because of the crisis in marriages. Reflecting the consequences of divorce and parents who don't know how to parent, children arrive on the doorsteps of schools unprepared to learn. Schools are now burdened with teaching children basic principles such as civility and respect that used to be universally taught by parents and that helped prepare children to learn. The resultant consequence is that schools must teach children these fundamental concepts before they can hope to educate them. In conjunction with the added job of preparing children to learn, schools today are being heavily criticized by demanding parents for not doing a better job of teaching their children.
Psychologist Robert Evans argues that in the United States educational system the crisis isn't one of schooling (as the news media, parents and governmental leaders often complain) but rather one of child rearing.
According to Evans, "The symptoms of this crisis—an accelerating deterioration in the civility, values, work ethic, and academic achievement of many youth—appear most vividly at school, and so the crisis is often seen as educational, but it begins well before school and extends well beyond it . . . Its immediate cause lies at home with parents, who are suffering a widespread loss of confidence and competence" (Family Matters: How Schools Can Cope With the Crisis in Childrearing, 2004, p. xi).
The central task remains the building a socially inclusive society, by resolving on the triple challenges of poverty, underdevelopment and unemployment is eminent if we are to build such a society, where our families will strive. Therefore, the strengthening of families remains a cardinal societal feature if poverty and inequality to be addressed. In strengthening families it would also be prudent to pay attentionto the role which arts, sports, culture, recreation and heritage play in also promoting wellbeing, social cohesion, nation building, national healing, social stability and economic growth.
In advancing ideals, we need to work together as civil society, private businesses and government, to give credence to the notion that the true mark of a civilized society is how it treats its most vulnerable.
My clarion call today is that all of us embrace a Family First approach to one’s life; where respect for an honest day’s hard work is valued, and where respect for family elders features prominently.
Author: MEC for Social Development, Mr. Alvin Botes