“Fathers Without Borders” project engages migrant fathers in caregiving in South Tyrol, Italy

By väter aktiv

Michael Bockhorni, president of väter aktiv.

MenCare partner väter aktiv is implementing the “Fathers Without Borders” (“Papa grenzenlos – Papa senza confini”) project in South Tyrol, Italy to engage migrant fathers in shared parenting and caregiving, supporting these dads in becoming more involved in family life and in the South Tyrolean community.

Around the world, the family and the household are often seen as traditionally female domains, in which men play a peripheral role and are reluctant to get involved. At the same time, fathers often retain a position of power, enforcing rules and values ​​in the family, and playing the sole role of financial provider outside the home. Such patriarchal norms can limit women’s agency and participation in public life and in paid work, contribute to conflict and violence in the home, and cause men to miss out on the joys of parenthood and family connection.

The negative impacts of restrictive gender roles often intersect with other difficulties faced specifically by migrant families, including financial instability; lack of extended family and social support networks; and changes in family dynamics, educational systems, and gender norms in a new environment.

To address these challenges, Fathers Without Borders is working both to involve migrant fathers in childcare and family life and to ease the often-difficult transition between their cultures of origin and South Tyrolean culture. By promoting men’s greater involvement in fatherhood in caring and nonviolent ways, the project also aims to improve migrant children’s success at school and to reduce family and community conflict.

The first stage of the project includes interviews with different stakeholders, intercultural mediators, and migrant families, to better understand their unique needs and perspectives. It also includes the identification of potential “multipliers” or agents of change: men who are already living and modeling equitable, caring relationships in their own lives and want to help others do the same. These men will then be trained to facilitate roundtable discussions with other fathers, providing a safe space to exchange experiences and to learn hands-on parenting skills.

Additional activities for dads aim to help increase their engagement, including sessions on reading books to children, workshops to cook and eat together, talks about fatherhood in different cultures and changing times, and a Father’s Day celebration of the music and dance of different cultures.

väter aktiv is implementing the project on behalf of the Burggrafenamt district, in partnership with project steering group members Caritas and the Advisory Council of Non-EU Citizens of Meran, and with the financial support of the Provincial Integration Office.

The project is open to collaboration with other MenCare partners outside of Italy. For more information, please email Michael Bockhorni, väter aktiv.