Before running off to pre-school to play with his friends, every morning 4-year-old Marito needs to bathe and have breakfast. When asked about his favourite things to do in school, Marito explains that he loves singing and most of all, learning and playing with his friends.
When it’s time to go home, Marito can often be seen accompanied by his father, Araujo, who comes to pick him up, something that happens all too rarely in Timorese society.
Research shows gendered attitudes to childcare
Research conducted by Plan East Timor in 2015 showed that it was widely expected for women to be responsible for domestic chores and the upbringing of children, while men are responsible for decision-making and income generation. It was widely believed that women and men are innately and naturally better at these different roles, and that childcare is less important than paid work.
Research shows that when fathers are engaged in their children’s learning, the benefits are huge.
Research has shown that when fathers are engaged in their children’s learning, the benefits are huge, both for the children and their family. As such, Plan International has been working with fathers in Timor-Leste to promote positive engagement in their children’s lives and in their care and upbringing, so that children can grow up free of these gendered attitudes and expectations.
Weekly parenting sessions have been set up for fathers in the community to discuss the important role they can play in their children's care and development as well as the problems of setting out gendered roles within the family. Men of different ages have also been trained to work as community pre-school teachers, to demonstrate that men can be warm and responsive caregivers and teachers for girls and boys.
Progress through parenting sessions
Araujo started attending the parenting sessions of Plan International and now shows a stronger interest in his son Marito’s development and future. “I want my son to go to school to learn and play with his friends and I want my son to become smart,” he says.
“I’ve seen positive changes in my son’s behavior, such as being more independent to take care of himself and getting ready for pre-school in the mornings. He also often likes to tell me about what he is learning at school or which games he likes to play with his friends,” he added.
Araujo admits that he used to never make time for school-related matters, as he didn’t think it was important enough to delay his work, but he now sees things differently.
“Before I heard the information from the parent’s sessions, I understood the duties of a father towards his child but I did not do it, because I didn’t have the time, I had to work in the garden and return late at night. But now I understand and I practice little by little with my children, I play with my son, learn about his day at school and tell stories to my children at home,” he says.
For Marito, who says he someday wants to be a teacher, having a father engaged in his life and learning is also just something that makes him smile.
Plan International Timor-Leste's Early Childhood Care and Development programme is supported by Plan International Finland.