Teenage pregnancy is one of the biggest issues facing the youth today but the focus is always on the mother and the struggles she has to endure. Young fathers seldom feature in the conversation. But what does it mean to be a young father in South Africa? The Children’s Act 38 of 2005, says if the biological mother and biological father were never married at the time of the birth or conception, and the father wants to have full parental rights and responsibilities he needs to comply with the following criteria set by the Children’s Act: he must be “living with the mother in a permanent life-partnership at the time of birth. Has contributed or has attempted in good faith to contribute to the child’s upbringing for a reasonable period. Has contributed or has tried in good faith to contribute towards maintenance expenses for the child for a reasonable period.”
Even though the law supports young fathers, there are other challenges that come with being a parent. Some relationships break apart and others have to deal with raising a child without a steady source of income. We spoke to three young fathers from Cape Town about the challenges they face as young fathers. Here are their responses:
1 Sipho Malgas
Sipho is a 27-year-old father from Nyanga. He works as an IT technician and has a 5-year-old daughter. He was with his daughter’s mother for six months before she fell pregnant, but the relationship didn’t last. He says the “baby momma drama” (the break-up) is what he struggles with the most as a young father, and his daughter having to adjust to him being with another woman. His daughter is now in the Eastern Cape with her mother, and has been living there since December last year. He says her being taken away was difficult because, “I didn’t have a say in the decision of taking her to the Eastern Cape.”
2 Sikhulule Ncekana
Sikhulule is a 19-year-old from Nyanga who became a father at 17. Sikhulule doesn’t have a permanent job but gets pocket money from his parents, “every now and then,” he says. He doesn’t pay maintenance, but when he has money he gives it to the mother, “Whenever I have money I give it to the baby momma.” Sikhulule and the mother of his child were together for seven months before she fell pregnant. He says money is the biggest struggle, “Money to support the kid is a struggle”.
3 Xolani Yakobi
Xolani is a 24-year-old father from Khayelitsha. He has a daughter who is a year and six months old, and has been with his girlfriend since 2011. He also doesn’t have a permanent job. “I don’t always have money, but I’ve been working for the most part of my baby’s presence, and while I was working I had some savings. So when I’m not working I can contribute to anything she needs,” he says. Xolani says being a father has helped him with growth and learning to be responsible. “It helped me grow and be responsible. Now I know my hustle is not only for me. It got me out of my comfort zone in a good way,” he says. Xolani says what he struggles with the most is “being a father, and still wanting to study, and do everything you wanted to before the child”.
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