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FACE TO FACE: Fighting for the rights of fathers

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FELICITY DARVILLE

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Clever Duncombe, a proud father, with his daughter, Ebony at her graduation from the University of The Bahamas. He wants other father’s to have this kind of pride after investing in their child from birth.

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Founder of Bahamian Fathers for Children Everywhere (BFCE), Clever Duncombe, standing, right, at CW Sawyer presenting two tablets to the most improved boy and girl.

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Clever Duncombe

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Clever Duncombe, left, at Stephen Dillet Primary with principal Clinton Josey, right, with two tablets to the most improved students, donated by the group BFCE

By FELICITY DARVILLE

Children who have a close relationship with their father are twice more likely to find stable employment or enter college after high school. They are 75 percent less likely to have a teen birth; 80 percent less likely to spend time in jail; and half as likely to experience multiple depression symptoms. Children with dads in their lives are 43 percent more likely to earn A’s in school, and 33 percent less likely to repeat a grade level. These statistics, found by a US-based children’s bureau, back what one community activist says is part of the reason for the high murder rate in the inner city areas of The Bahamas’ capital city, Nassau.

More than 60 percent of Bahamian households are fatherless, according to the Bahamas National Statistical Institute. This statistic directly correlates to the crime problem, says Clever Duncombe, founder of Bahamian Fathers for Children Everywhere (BFCE). For two decades, he and his colleagues have been pushing for legislative and policy changes that would support those fathers who really want to be in their children’s lives.

BFCE has been calling for Bahamian laws to be upgraded to meet international standards on the rights of fathers. The children of The Bahamas, he said, need their fathers now more than ever. The figures show that with fathers on board, there is hope to redress social ills and bring peace back to the streets of Nassau.

“The world average is 5 murders per 100,000, Duncombe said. “Last year, we had 111 murders; the year before that, 128. Some twenty-five people have already been murdered in this year alone. We are averaging 30 murders per 100,000 - inner city New Providence is a conflict zone.”

Bahamian Fathers for Children Everywhere stands on the principle that every father should play a pivotal role in their children’s upbringing. According to the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child, fathers should feel empowered to hold the role of active caregiver. The Bahamas signed the Convention on October 30, 1990, and ratified it on February 20, 1991.

To date, Duncombe says, Bahamian legislation still lacks the kind of backing that fathers need in order to actively participate in their children’s lives, essentially helping to tackle the crime problem.

Between 2003 and 2007, the BCFE actively lobbied the government until the Child Protection Act was passed in 2007 and enforced in 2009. This Act replaced Affiliations Proceedings Act (119), which was in place for children born out of wedlock.

“The only purpose that piece of legislation was for mother’s access to their child,” Duncombe recalls. “The father couldn’t petition the court. A whole compendium of legislation was repealed to clear the way for the Child Protection Act.”

“Since the enforcement of the Act, fathers can now petition the court for access to their child. The UN Convention says the State must respect the rights and responsibilities of parents and extended family members to provide guidance to their children as a appropriate for their evolving capacity. Another article in the Convention states that parents would have shared common responsibility in raising the child.”

The BFCE continue their quest to have the laws work in favour of supportive fathers. The current Child Protection Act, Duncombe says, states that if a father is not married to the mother of his child, he would have to satisfy Article 14 (2) of the Act, involving maintenance, and a Magistrate has the power to deny access to the child if he is delinquent on maintenance.

The Act, says Duncombe, is not being properly regulated, and the laws and court processes frustrate many fathers who would, otherwise, have been active in their children’s lives.

The men are calling for the appointment of a National Child Advocate, similar to an ombudsman, as the Act indicates.

“The Act is not gender neutral,” Duncombe continued. “The law automatically assumes that the mother is more fit and ready for raising the child, without even interviewing both parents. If the mother is on drugs or abusing the child, the father has to prove that. The law is not on his side.”

“In 2024, we still have to get permission of the mother to apply for a passport for our child. Some of the wording in the Act takes The Bahamas 50 years backwards.

Parents should be equal whether they are married or unmarried - this is what the international convention calls for.”

While they push for legislative support, the men of BFCE have also been busy helping thousands of Bahamian men and children stay connected. They help fathers through the frustrating court process with hopes of gaining more access to their child.

Duncombe says that in order to rid The Bahamas’ capital city, Nassau, of the scourge of murder, “all hands on deck” means fathers have to play a big part.

He encouraged fathers to go and look for their children today. Reach out to them, support them, and guide them in the right path. Even if it means changing your own life in order to do so.

“If there are problems with your child’s mother, it doesn’t mean you cannot be a part of your child’s life,” Duncombe said.

“I encourage fathers to create a cordial relationship with their child’s teacher. Attend PTA meetings. Connect with their children through the church, and supporting their extra curricular activities. There are lots of avenues they can take to have a positive impact on their child’s life, rather than abandoning that child because of the mother.”

“Men have turned away from their responsibility because of the hurdles they have to go through with the courts just to see their child. Nobody wants to be locked up over their child or find themselves in these acrimonious situations with the mother who doesn’t see the value of a father. Some fathers wait until the child is 18 and most times, by then it’s too late.”

“We have an even bigger problem to overcome which is unbelievable,” Duncombe continued.

“We have pastors and politicians who are also fathering children out of wedlock and do not want the legal responsibility to these children. So if they don’t want it, nobody gets it and because of it, our society bleeds.”

Duncombe, who is CEO of DunMac Contractual services, started Bahamian Fathers for Children Everywhere 21 years ago because of his own battle to see his daughter. It was tough, but he fought through the courts and because of it, he was able to play an active role in his daughter’s life. He is proud of having given his all to be in his daughter’s life as she is now an educator, and he is the proud grandfather of her son.

Comments

mandela 2 months, 1 week ago

The laws are designed to punish fathers and reward mothers, fatherhood is the most important part of any functioning home and society, and today it's evident, that most of the murderers and destructive young men wreaking havoc in society today were brought up with only mothers in single-mother homes, and a single mother without the father present or the village to help her, she will be fighting a losing battle especially with young men and also young women.

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themessenger 2 months, 1 week ago

And what laws do we have in this country that prevent men from having a stable non violent relationship with ONE woman, accepting responsibility for and nurturing the children THEY fathered through to young adulthood? Of course that isn’t a manly thing, our “men” measure their masculinity by the number of women they can impregnate and the number of children they can brag are theirs while conveniently abdicating all of their parental responsibilities. A measly $50 a month paid to the court doesn’t absolve these derelict fathers. The unfortunate truth is most of them are themselves a product of that same vicious cycle. Our governments failure to educate our children in sexual education, birth control and family planning hasn’t helped, neither has the vast majority of the so called men of the cloth some of whom are the worst offenders and predators. We as a society lost our moral compass long ago and are now teetering on the brink of no return.

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