BRAZIL: Valnei is a painter. He is also training in nursing. But above all, Valnei is a hands-on dad, and he has a strong opinion of what it takes to be a good one:
“Being a good father is being always present in your child's life. Fathers have the responsibility to support their sons and daughters so they can become good men or women in the future.”
As his wife was recovering from the birth of their son by Caesarean section, Valnei took it upon himself to carry out baby duties: bath, diapers, midnight feeding… all for a rewarding return. “I give him affection, and he gives me affection back. It is simply incredible,” he says.
Valnei is also part of the Fathers’ League, a Plan International initiative promoting the importance of engaging fathers in their daughters’ and sons’ lives from birth.
The initiative gathers single and married fathers from 3 municipalities in the state of Maranhao around community football tournaments. Brazil’s national game can be an effective tool that mobilises communities and helps raise awareness and trigger discussions about early childhood development. Half-times are spent discussing the benefits of positive parenthood. Fathers are challenged to question traditional forms of fatherhood and their involvement within their families.
During the tournament days, fathers, mothers and other caregivers are also invited to further workshops and discussions on how father-daughter/son relationships can positively affect their children’s lives, the importance of boosting girls’ and boys’ self-esteem, and education, among other topics. They also share their experience, as well as new information and methods for improved care of children, especially in the first year of children’s lives.
“Fathers have the responsibility to support their sons and daughters so that they can become good men or women in the future”
“I had a different opinion before I participated in the gender workshops”, Valnei admits. “I thought that girls’ stuff was only for girls and boys’ stuff was only for boys. I used to believe that it could influence my son's preferences now and in the future, but now I know that it would not change anything. It’s his own decision.”
Plan International believes that children whose fathers are involved in caring for them and bringing them up right from birth through to adolescence, are more likely to succeed in life and become better educated, happier and healthier in adulthood.
Valnei strongly agrees: “I will continue side by side in my son’s journey and help him be a man who respects others, and who is caring and loving with the people around him.”