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South Sudan, 11 June 2018: “Many fathers are missing out”

© UNICEF South Sudan/2018/Ryeng
Daro Momo and his 1.5 year-old daughter Opia Mirabelle are playing in the living room. Being the main caregiver comes with great rewards, Daro says. “When your child lights up just because you entered the room, that is the best feeling ever. Nothing comes even close”.

By Helene Sandbu Ryeng

JUBA, South Sudan, 11 June 2018 – Daro Momo lifts his daughter Opia Mirabelle, and starts spinning her around in the middle of the living room. The one and a half-year-old squeals of excitement. Daro wrap his arms around his little girl. Their eyes meet, they both crack a smile.

“You know, she is more used to me now. Even if her mom is in the room she comes running to me”, Daro says looking at his daughter with a gaze beaming of love.

Daro is something you will struggle to come across in South Sudan. He is the primary caretaker in the household. His wife, Salome Kwaje, works for an aid agency, and spend most of her time in the field as a mental health officer. It’s never been an option to be a stay- at- home mom, something she made very clear already when the two were dating.

“I’m very lucky to have found him”, Salome says looking at her husband affectionately. “He is very understanding and helpful, that is hard to come by in Africa”.

Daro works as a UNICEF program assistant, and thus for all children in South Sudan. Still, there is one child getting far more attention from him, even during working hours.

“I worry a lot, especially if the nanny doesn’t pick up her phone during the day. My head starts spinning wondering what’s wrong. When my daughter is crying during the night I know something is wrong, and I worry again.

Still, most of the time he enjoys being a father.
 

© UNICEF South Sudan/2018/Ryeng
Fathers have the power to help their babies grow by playing with them, just like Daro is doing. Yet, too many children are still missing out on the ‘eat, play, love, that their brains need to develop.

“We lay down on the living room floor and play together all the time. I really cherish these moments”.

To demonstrate, he goes down on all fours. Seconds later the little girl follows, and the two are butting heads in a friendly competition.

“I would say fathers in South Sudan, in fact all over Africa, are really missing out when they don’t take active part in their children’s lives. You only get one chance. Once they are grown up, there is nothing you can do to go back”, Daro says with determination.

It’s still forever and a day before Opia Mirabelle has her own family. Daro and Salome hope she will be able to make her own decision when that day arrives.

“Change is on its way with more girls going to school than ever before, but men have to do their part as well. We need to step up and take responsibility for our children”, Daro says and promise great rewards:

“When your child lights up just because you entered the room, that is the best feeling ever. Nothing comes even close”.

 

 
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