The unmatched joy of fatherhood
How UNICEF supports parents in Rwanda to spend more time with their children
RULINDO, Rwanda - Jean de Dieu Uwizeye cherishes his two-year-old daughter, Anita. Each morning, Jean brings Anita to a UNICEF-supported early childhood development centre on the tea plantation where he works. While Jean works on the plantation, Anita plays with other children under the supervision of trained caregivers. She eats breakfast and lunch at the centre, allowing Jean to work happily, knowing his daughter is safe and happy.
“My favourite time of the day is when I pick Anita from the centre after work, because it means we get to spend time together at home."
“She especially loves singing with me. She likes to invent her own songs. I do not always know what she is saying,” Jean laughs, “but I always try to join in.”
Jean also makes toys for Anita, using discarded materials like plastic bottles. “Her favourite toy is a small car I made from common objects I found lying around.” As he speaks, Anita totters across the yard, pulling the car behind her on a string. She occasionally stops, grinning, to pick up small objects and place them inside the car.
Although Jean finds extraordinary joy playing with Anita, he admits that he was not always such an attentive father.
“With Anita’s older sister, I did not always play with her. I do not think I truly understood the vital role a father plays in helping his child develop.” Through training sessions for parents at Anita’s early childhood development centre, facilitated by UNICEF, Jean has learnt a lot about the important first 1,000 days of a child’s life, and how his involvement as a father is preparing Anita to be successful as she grows.
Smiling brightly while Anita scampers around near him, Jean says, “The benefits are clear to me. She is really growing into a very vibrant and active child.”