Fathers in Turkey take on more childcare responsibilities during COVID-19


Originally published by UN Women's regional office for Europe and Central Asia

Fathers in Turkey are spending more time with their children and taking on more childcare responsibilities. Photo: Personal archive

As many people find themselves indoors due to the COVID-19 outbreak, fathers in Turkey are spending more time with their children and taking on more childcare and domestic responsibilities, thanks to the Father Support Programme, implemented by the civil society organization Mother Child Education Foundation (AÇEV). AÇEV implemented a project on innovative strategies that promote favourable attitudes and behaviours towards gender equality and ending violence against women under the framework of the EU-UN Women regional programme on ending violence against women in the Western Balkans and Turkey, “Implementing Norms, Changing Minds,” and soon this project will continue its activity within the second phase of the regional programme.  

More than 800 fathers in Turkey, who joined the Father Support Programme (FSP) in 2019, share more care work at home and challenge other fathers on social media to be involved in household chores and increase the quality of time spent with their children. 

“Now, since I don’t go to work because of coronavirus, I have been together with my wife and children at home for the past three weeks. We play games. We planted flowers and now we are observing their growth day by day. We are also sharing housework with my wife. For example, she sweeps, I wipe. We are doing our best to stay healthy during these days,” said Yuksel Bayer, an FSP participant from Manisa, a city in western Turkey, who has an 8-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son. 

The FSP programme advocates for involved fatherhood and gender equality and is designed specifically for fathers of children between the ages of 3-11. In 2019, more than 867 fathers in eight different provinces from Turkey completed the 13-week long programme. Some of the fathers continue to attend the online sessions conducted by trainers in 2020 as well. 

“After the COVID-19 outbreak, the FSP trainers continued to offer parenting support to the participants via different online channels. They recommended children’s activities and gave brief summaries of the programme sessions and suggestions on how fathers can develop their parenting skills in times of the COVID-19 lockdown,” said Ahmet Çetin, Programme and Field Coordinator of AÇEV.

As a result of the online intervention, the WhatsApp groups previously created under the project have become more active, and interaction among fathers has increased. Most fathers are taking photos and recording videos of themselves doing creative activities with their children, such as making puzzles, playing games, or doing care work at homes, such as cleaning or cooking.

“Fathers are sharing photos and videos of their experiences both on WhatsApp groups and social media accounts, encouraging other fathers to do the same,” said Ahmet Çetin.

Fathers challenge other fathers on social media to increase the quality of time spent with their children. Photo: Personal archive

Research shows that, across the nation, women carry a majority of the household duties, even with full-time jobs. “Before COVID-19 became a universal pandemic, women were doing five times as much unpaid care and domestic work as men. In the context of the pandemic, the increased demand for care work is deepening already existing gender inequalities. This is why, through the Father Support Programme, we want to inspire men to do their equal share of household duties and childcare responsibilities,” stated Yolanda Iriarte, Manager of the regional programme “Implementing Norms, Changing Minds”. 

The representatives of AÇEV also share daily videos and programme summaries via WhatsApp with the fathers to ensure the continuity of the Father Support Programme groups.

The Father Support Programme advocates for involved fatherhood and gender equality. Photo: Personal archive

“Recently, we played one of the games shared by AÇEV. Playing together with the kids was very enjoyable. I enjoyed the game as much as they did. They have an amazing imagination,” said Ali Ekber Balku, another participant of the programme from Bursa province.

AÇEV is also working on producing comprehensive content on physical strength, psycho-social resilience and household relationships, including content on the share of domestic responsibilities and combating domestic violence during outbreaks.

"Considering the increased burden on women during this period, as AÇEV we also continue supporting mothers through our Mother Support Programme,” said Burcu Gündüz Maşalacı, General Manager of AÇEV.