Parenting extended family in a post-conflict country

By Tamba David Mackieu

In many countries the world over, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, the majority of families constitute many adults, both male and female, and children who are related to the father or wife (wives) in various ways. It can also be a combination of children from previous homes or from people, who were at one point in time either care takers or service providers to those who are now married.

There are also children in family settings that have lost their biological parents as a result of war or who have become physically challenged, and those aunts, nephews, cousins, brothers, sisters are left with no other options but to take the responsibility to parent them.

The West African coastline country of the republic of Sierra Leone is emerging from a decade-long brutal, barbaric civil conflict, described as the worst destructive rebel war with the highest cruel atrocities ever recorded in the living history of the country, which has left behind several untold burdens, and fathering children from extended families is one of them for many of those who survived the war, especially those from the rural underserved communities. This cuts across all regions in the country except for the Christian krios.

Mr. Tamba David Mackieu and wife Mrs. Alice Joy Mackieu, pictured in the front ofAn extended family in Sub-Saharan Africa their extended family, are just samples of many such families today in post conflict Sierra Leone that parent children from diverse family backgrounds.

The MenCare campaign, “You Are My Father” in the Sierra Leone context has been craftily tailored in to the Gender Equality campaign done by the Men’s Association for Gender Equality (MAGE SL) Sierra Leone and is gradually gaining ground. Many men who attend their trainings discuss questions such as how their roles as fathers have changed since they started parenting extended family and the caring roles they play. Relationships between the father and child, the management of multiple households, and the word “father” and how it relates to all in the house are learning points.

Gender equality promotion initiatives encompass caring for and parenting children, which is a new approach in Sierra Leone’s context, but as many people around the neighborhoods see sample behavior patterns from Mr. Mackieu, alot of feedback is received.

Some say he has been dominated by his wife, lost his manhood credentials, is under the spell of “voodoo work,” black magic, is too womanish, and many others say he has changed the creationist theories by taking the role of a woman whilst he is a man.

Taking children to school, and the clinic when sick, washing them and allowing his two boys who have completed secondary schools to cook and launder clothes at home among many home care services have made a great impact in his community. During the fatherhood campaign and training activities, many men, especially the aged majority hold strongly to the cultural and traditional beliefs that they will lose their manhood and control as heads of families, and that their traditional clan elders will not forgive them for making as they call it “such serious mistakes and abominations.”

On the contrary, many youths and middle age men and boys expressed willingness to follow the practice and some even say they have been doing similar work with their fiancé/girlfriends/wives.

According to many youths, the old men and women have reached their efficiency bars, a point of no return but with the campaign, many men and boys, especially among the middle age and youths are taking the practices to their various communities and are ready to discuss the challenges, and traditional and cultural outcomes.

About Mr. Tamba David Makieu

Tamba David Mackieu is the Executive Director of Men Engage Africa Alliance – Sierra Leone Network and Manager of the United Nations Trust fund Men’s Association for Gender Equality (MAGE SL). He worked with Christian Children’s Funds Sierra Leone (CCF SL) as a Child Protection Officer. At UNHCR, he was a consultant on Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) in the Liberian Refugee Camps of Sierra Leone.

Makieu’s expertise is in engaging men and boys in a post-conflict setting, non-violent gender transformation work for gender equality, protection and empowerment of women, child protection, disarmament and demobilization, and psychosocial welfare programs in war affected communities and those impacted by natural disasters.

He is the first ever recipient of a MenCare Achievement Award.