The South African Parenting Programme Implementers Network (SAPPIN) recently concluded its 2nd Annual Families Indaba in Cape Town with action-oriented proposals aimed at amplifying the impact of parenting programmes on social change. Keynote speaker Mastoera Sadan, Chief Sector Expert in the National Planning Commission Secretariat, emphasised the pivotal role of families in societal formation, urging for an integrated government approach to family policy.
"We must reshape how our government policies treat families, looking beyond the macro to see the needs at a micro level. We need to see abundance in the faces of our people and recognise that we all belong to one another," Mastoera reflected, invoking the vision statement for South Africa in 2030.
SAPPIN is a collaborative network dedicated to supporting parents across South Africa. Bringing together policymakers, corporates, government representatives, researchers, funders, and individuals committed to supporting parents, this year's Indaba focused on critical themes such as the significance of fatherhood in parenting programmes, the necessity for collaboration across sectors, and the urgent need to address mental health within family support frameworks.
In a timely development, the High Court recently handed down a judgement poised to revolutionise parental leave rights. The ruling in Van Wyk and Others v the Minister of Employment and Labour and Others, delivered on October 27, calls for a gender-neutral interpretation of maternity leave under the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. The decision advocates for parental leave to be accessible to all parents, allowing them to share the responsibility of early childcare equally. This landmark ruling aligns with the transformative discussions held at the Indaba, underscoring the need for policies that support all facets of parenting.
UNICEF’s Chief of Child Protection, Makiba Yamano, underlined the importance of empowering, rather than supplanting, parental roles through strengthened support networks and research, especially in areas troubled by fatherhood challenges, teenage pregnancies, and poverty.
Panel discussions revealed a stark disconnect between implementers and researchers, advocating for a shift in the research agenda to be more community-centric, acknowledging the current exploitative dynamics, and promoting trust and mutual learning.
Several key initiatives for the next year include:
A collaborative funding proposal led by SAPPIN to enhance the organisation and its resources.
Frameworks for sharing best practices while maintaining programme fidelity.
Strategic partnerships aimed at fostering holistic family well-being within communities.
An upcoming Fatherhood Community of Practice event to be hosted by SAPPIN in March 2024.
The Indaba also called for a reconceptualization of social change, seeking to empower parents and communities as the primary agents of positive transformation. Prevention and early intervention, especially within the first 1000 days of a child's life, were emphasised as a critical space for impactful work.
"Parents are the unsung heroes shaping our society, and it’s time their voices are heard in policy-making, research, and implementation. The dialogues here have laid down the foundation for a new era of family-centred social reform," said Wilmi Dippenaar, Director of SAPPIN.
In addition to these strategic discussions, practical outcomes included the proposal for a united front in engaging funders and a commitment to better leverage community resources and social networks, such as churches and social media, to support families not reached by traditional parenting programmes.
Looking ahead, the Indaba has set the stage for what promises to be a landmark year leading up to the 2024 elections, and SAPPIN is poised to play a central role in advocating for families, promoting systemic changes, and challenging established norms to build a stronger, more inclusive South Africa.