By Evie Andreou
SOCIETY needs to be educated on men’s equal rights to parenthood, Marios Panaou the man behind the Cyprus Fatherhood Initiative group said yesterday .
He said fathers were not just sperm providers or cash machines but parents.
Panaou, the divorced father of a small child set up the group some two years ago and created a Facebook page for the Initiative.
The mission is to promote healthy, positive attitudes regarding fathers’ role in their children’s lives. To achieve this, the group is working on changing married or divorced fathers’ attitudes by encouraging them to be more involved in their children’s lives and by fighting to change laws and attitudes towards married and divorced fathers.
Panaou said they were promoting parental leave and gender-neutral education to fight stereotypes within families and society. They are also battling to the changes the diminished role of divorced fathers that leads to parental alienation.
The group consists a diverse crowd that have organised themselves into promoting their goals collectively.
“We have around 2,000 followers on Facebook, while around 100 of us have arranged meetings to discuss various issues of concern and started organising ourselves towards sending letters to authorities concerning several issues the group deals with,” Panaou said.
He said that it was not only divorced men who contact him but also women, divorced and married, as well as the children of divorced parents.
“In fact 60 per cent of the Facebook page followers are women who would like to see their husbands or former partners become more involved in their children’s upbringing,” he said.
He added that many men don’t have an active role in their children’s lives because of outdated stereotypes that present men as the breadwinners and women as the main care providers.
Panaou, a teacher himself, said he has prepared educational material on gender neutrality and aims to propose it to the education ministry.
“Society perpetuates these stereotypes but these roles are changing,” he said.
He said that baby changing stations in establishments are located in women’s toilets, making things difficult for fathers in the role of care giver
“It’s the little things that we need to change in order to change mindsets,” Panaou said.
As regards parental alienation, according to the group, in most cases, until a final court settlement is reached fathers get to see their children only nine hours per week.
Panaou said he is to meet Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou in late August to discuss violation of court orders on visiting rights and that the group was also discussing with the finance ministry the issue of parental leave. The group is also working towards incorporating the celebration of fathers’ day in schools.
Panaou also created a website where he and other group members post information on various issues of interest. The website hosts videos of men talking about what is like to be a father, experiences of parental alienation, and the personal stories of members.
It also hosts chat forums and it provides access to law documents on parental rights.
For more information http://cyprusdads.org