UWI hears call to curb fatherlessness

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

AN International Men’s Day virtual forum held by the University of the West Indies (UWI) on Thursday heard a plea from a US-based activist for action to stem an “epidemic of fatherlessness.”

Stevan “Coach” Lynn, founder of the advocacy group Deeds Driven Dads, said it was no now time to elevate the consciousness of fathers and future fathers, build character and get them back on track.

“Today there is a pandemic, not viral, but a disease of fatherless homes, fatherless communities and fatherless nations, from Jamaica to Tobago.”

Lynn lamented that too many youngsters were being raised without positive male role models.

“We cannot leave him out. Fathers are important. Fathers are part of the equation. They made the baby together – he is going nowhere.”

Lynn said efforts to build males must start early, to stop the cycle of fatherlessness.

“It is easier to build strong young men than it is to repair the older crowd. So we need to have a concerted effort on developing a young male mentorship programme.”

He related that his organisation encourages youngsters to join football and cricket clubs and then works with their sports coaches.

“Oftentimes, coaches are that positive role model they have.” Such efforts help youngsters have strategies, tools and information for coping.

Lynn said his organisation mentored young males, in areas like personal grooming, how they should conduct themselves in public, and how they may dream and make their dreams a reality.

He lamented that if a young man hits a woman, he’ll say he had modelled such behaviour on what he had picked up on the street or had conceived himself, rather than learning better conduct from a positive role model. Many perpetrators of violence had reverted to such bad acts when they were under stress.

Lynn said his organisation will launch initiatives in the Caribbean, including a fatherhood training centre as a hub of resources to help nurture a positive masculinity.

He viewed fatherhood as a pillar for gender justice.

Lynn offered five keys to success with youngsters that must all be turned simultaneously. These were: faith, sacrifice, patience, commitment and unconditional love.

He urged a faith that they would succeed.

Regarding sacrifice, Lynn said, “It may look like there is no light at the end of the tunnel; You are the light.”

On patience, he said, “We didn’t get here overnight; we’ll not get back overnight, but we will get there.” He urged a “commitment to our wonderful women.”

Lynn said unconditional love meant having soft shoulders, adding, “Masculinity means you are soft and caring.”

Tyrone Buckmire of the Legal Aid and Counselling Clinic in Grenada examined largely-unspoken issues of gender politics.

He said some suspicious minds viewed International Men’s Day as a way for men to continue to dominate spaces, but said it was a time to celebrate achievements by males and to foster gender justice. Buckmire said some men’s organisations were viewed with scepticism by some people,suspicious they were vehicles for some seeking to take advantage of others.

Men’s organisations have faced push back by some women’s groups fearing rivalry for scarce resources. “Don’t compete for resources but collaborate.”

Glenroy Murray, head of J-FLAG – the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays – lamented the negative impacts of heteronormality and gender stereotyping. He complained that very little research has been done into the impact of issues such as health and climate change on the Caribbean LGBT community.

“Very often we are left out of the conversations – on sexual health, sexual rights, and wellness overall,” Murray lamented.