This month’s tenet states, “We value the irreplaceable role of fathers and build interdependent relationships with men.”
I have thought a great deal about this tenet since attending CSW (Commission on the Status of Women) at the U.N. in March. I met women from around the world. As I spoke with them, I realized just how impactful the role of father is in the life of a young girl and future as a woman. His influence can shape her self-esteem, self-image, confidence, life satisfaction, academic achievement, career choice, mental health, resilience, and mate selection. The relationship between a father and daughter greatly impacts her opinions of men and how she will most likely navigate future relationships. If she was treated well, she will seek out a mate who will do likewise. And this positive cycle can continue for generations.
In many parts of the world, the birth of a girl is not celebrated nor welcomed. From birth, a girl is discriminated against, dominated, and treated as property. She is excluded from school, blamed for being a victim of crimes, sold or traded, and denied basic human rights.
At the U.N. I met Tae, an amazing young woman from South Sudan. She grew up in a culture like the one described above — with women being victims of domination and discrimination. Education is a rare luxury for young girls. Their spouses are chosen by their fathers based mostly on their market value, not love. Fortunately, Tae was different. She had an amazing father who did not follow the cultural norms regarding women, especially his daughters. He recognized their worth and the divine gifts each one possessed and could contribute if given the opportunity. Therefore, he worked hard to make sure they received an education. This was a big deal. Common in their culture and religion, he practiced polygamy so he had many children dependent on his support. Often he couldn’t be at home because he was off working to provide for his family. Tae spoke of her father’s great sacrifice with such pride. I could tell that it had instilled a sense of worth in her. She knew she had something important to offer the world. She knew she had specific gifts and she could do great things with these gifts if given the opportunity. I witnessed her doing those great things at the U.N. when we met.
One other amazing gift from her father was that he allowed his daughters to marry for love. Because of this she was able to find a like-minded man who loves her and allows her to continue to grow and develop.
Without her supportive father and husband the life Tae has would not be possible. Because of these courageous men, she is not only able to have a happier life herself but future generations of women will be impacted as she and her sisters raise men who honor, protect, and respect women.
The role of men in the lives of girls and women cannot be overstated. As we help others to better understand the importance of these roles, we will change the world one family and generation at a time. We can start in our own homes by speaking positively about the roles of our fathers, brothers, and grandfathers. We can work harder to preserve marriage so that fathers can fulfill their roles in the home. We can also teach our daughters and sons that as males and females we are innately different but we all have great worth. As men and women work together, we can accomplish great things, much more than if we work separately.