Look no further than the celebrity world to get a glimpse of the “new dad.”

There’s superstar footballer David Beckham, who proudly proclaims, “My greatest achievement is my family." [1]

And there’s reggae star Ziggy Marley, a father of five who drew inspiration from his own children to record Family Time, his first children’s music CD. “My song is about individual family,” says Marley; “but if you go deeper, it’s about the world family, all of us coming from one root.”[2]

In films, screenwriter and director James L. Brooks says, “You’re not going to hear with a straight face about a guy that doesn’t participate in childcare anymore. It just doesn’t exist. That thing that people made movies about—Mr. Mom­—is about as antique as any notion of fatherhood could be right now.”

In fact, family dynamics, particularly in western countries, are more fluid than ever before. According to recent United States census statistics, 15% of single parents were men. In two-parent households, an estimated 154,000 fathers took on the role of stay-at-home-dad.[3]

But even as more fathers are willing to pitch in when it comes to parenting, to become competent at childrearing men need more time and practice. Papas everywhere may envy Sweden, where both working parents are entitled to 16 months of paid leave per child.[4] Most of the world’s new fathers can’t experience “the happy life of a Swedish dad” [5] as they must make do with limited or no paternity leave.[6]

With more men willing to take an active role as fathers, rather than just be the family breadwinner, it seems we’ve come a long way toward gender equality in parenting—or have we?  Are men really holding up their half of the sky as partners and fathers?

For the most part, at home, they’re still not doing their fair share. Women’s workload and time sacrifice are greater than men’s in nearly every country.[7]  Even in gender-friendly Norway, responsibility for childcare is mostly born by women, including the highly educated.[8]

Fathers also need to be raised as men who believe in gender equity and respect towards women. The dearth of programs to promote gender equity, and the prevalence of social norms that accept violence against women, means that domestic violence remains a terrifying threat for many mothers. This worldwide tragedy is finally being addressed head on. In South Africa, Soul City’s innovative soap operas are helping change social norms about domestic violence, [9] and in Britain, TV ads aim to tackle men’s attitudes towards abuse at an early age.[10]

At the international level, Promundo, Sonke Gender Justice together with UN Women, UNFPA and other partners recently launched MenCare, a global campaign to raise awareness about the need to engage men as equitable, non-violent fathers ( It’s a transformation that’s echoing around the globe.

Power relations between fathers and mothers are still far from equal, but there’s no doubt the gender equation at home is slowly shifting, and for the better.

In our PAPA gallery:

  • HEAR FROM Jeremy Adam Smith, a stay-at-home-dad in the United States who calls for reconsideration of family roles
  • LISTEN to Mama’s Voices, where women around the world discuss what role they think fathers play in their lives and their children’s lives
  • READ an interview with Hatunimanga Sylvestere, a man in Burundi who overcame cultural restrictions and now has a loving, equal relationship with his wife
  • AND MORE >>

[1] David Beckham: My greatest achievement is my family by Rachael Bletchly, Daily Mirror, July 16, 2011, Accessed 5 December 2011

[2] Ziggy Marley Singing for the Kids, YouTube June 2, 2009, Accessed 14 December 2011

[4] Parental leave, Wikipedia, Accessed 6 December 2011

[5] Snack Bags and a Regular Paycheck: The Happy Life of a Swedish Dad by Nathan Hegedus, Slate, August 31, 2010, Accessed 7 December 2011

[6] Parental leave, Wikipedia, Accessed 6 December 2011

[7] The State of the World’s Children, 2007, Women and Children, The Double Dividend of Gender Equality, UNICEF,, Accessed 5 December 2011

[8] Motherhood vs career logic rules, PhD Research by Sigtona Halrynjo, Nordic Labour Journal, 7 March 2011, Accessed 30 November 2011

[9] Soul City - South Africa's most popular soap opera, YouTube, Accessed 6 December 2011

[10] Teenage domestic violence tackled by advert campaign, BBC News, February 15, 2010, Accessed 6 December 2011