Erick Ogutu, 29, runs to class with his daughter Octaviah Achieng, 2, at the Little Rock Early Childhood Development Centre in Nairobi, Kenya.
Ending his speech in Myanmar to celebrate the growing cooperation between Sweden and Myanmar at the occasion of the National Day of Sweden, H.E. Staffan Herrström, Ambassador to Thailand, Lao PDR and Myanmar, offered a few personal reflections about a theme that is “close to [his] heart” – fatherhood, and the need for men to engage gender equality.
Men need to be seen as fathers, treated as fathers, identified as fathers, receive rights as fathers – and of course behave like fathers. Paid parental leave was made available for both fathers and mothers in Sweden in 1974. Later on 90 days out of 480 have been reserved for men – the three Daddy’s months. This has significantly contributed to gender equality.
I used it as well. Two months with my eldest daughter. Almost one month with my youngest. It was too short, but it made a huge difference. Having the whole responsibility. No Karin, my wife, there to help me. There was nowhere to escape.
There is a perception – a stereotype – that parenthood is something that happens in women’s lives only, and that parenthood has practical consequences only for women’s lives. As a result, employers may have an expectation that women will be away from work more than men, which may affect their chances of employment and promotion. Stereotypes of this kind are in that way also directly related to the gender pay gap.
We need to change that. To change that leads to a better life also for us, the fathers, the men.
Men who stay at home with their kids for some time, take better care of themselves, drink less and have a more healthy life style.
And less domestic violence as well. We men need to get the priorities right.
“Honestly: How many men my age do you hear asking themselves why they didn’t work more when they were young – and how many are asking themselves why they didn’t spend more time with their children?”
Men benefit from being fathers at home. Women benefit at work from men being fathers at home. And most important of all: Children benefit. They need us as well, the dads.
And this is shown through the (photo) exhibition outside. I encourage you all to have a close look.
So that is simply my message today: Let dads be dads.
Ambassador Herrström was also opening an accompanying photo exhibition on “Swedish Dads” in Myanmar as part of the celebration.