Plan International knows that when mothers feel depressed and stressed, it affects their ability to provide loving care to their children – and that rates of maternal depression are high in many poor rural communities in which we work.
We also know that when fathers and men are involved in the care and development of their children, have respectful relationships with their partners, and share decision-making and parental duties there are hugely positive benefits for children’s development, maternal wellbeing and relationships within the family. Male engagement and support is also associated with a reduction in the rates of violence and violent discipline within the home.
Importance of maternal wellbeing and male engagement
Recognising this, Plan International in Uganda has adapted its parenting education programme in communities that are participating in Community Led Action for Children (CLAC) – an Early Childhood Development programme which focuses not only on critical practices such as provision of a diverse diet, but includes discussion around maternal well-being and the importance of men’s engagement.
I learnt to have a good relationship with my wife through parenting sessions so that our children grow and develop in a peaceful home.
The programme is family focused – all mothers and fathers with young children in the community are encouraged to attend a 12 session programme, delivered by trained community facilitators (both male and female) over 6 to 8 months. All sessions emphasise the importance of love and respect – for themselves, their spouses and children.
Through interactive activities, including role play, games, parent-child interactions and group problem-solving, parents learn new skills and are assigned ‘homework’ to put these practices into action during the fortnight before the following session.
“I learnt to have a good relationship with my wife through parenting sessions so that our children grow and develop in a peaceful home,” says Okongo John, a male parenting group member from Awaya. “For example. I stopped beating her and helped her in child care like bathing the children."
Parent and child benefits
Our evaluation of the programme has shown improvement in vital areas; a significant effect on maternal well-being with mothers reporting reduced levels of depression and higher positive support from husbands, as well as significant beneficial effects on children’s cognitive and language development.
This low-cost integrated parenting approach has been replicated across our working areas and Plan International’s ECD programmes in Uganda now reach over 170 communities and approximately 22,100 children aged 0–6 years.
In addition, since 2014, the approach has been adapted and used in camps for South Sudanese refugees located in three districts of northern Uganda. These parent groups are using an adapted version of the twelve-session programme, with increased emphasis on non-violent conflict resolution, the importance of peaceful co-existence and parents’ role promoting this amongst their young children.