Following on from the success of the initial FatherSchools rounds in Austria and Germany since 2017, the Parenting for Peace FatherSchools model expanded into Europe in 2021, with the first roll-out in Belgium. Building on the previous MotherSchools partnership, Women without Borders (WwB) cooperated with local implementing partner CEAPIRE. Funded by the U.S. Embassy in Brussels, the first round of FatherSchools in Belgium across the municipalities of Brussels, Antwerp, and Liège, trained fathers to activate their intrinsic potential to become role models for peace within their families and communities.

The success and rapid expansion of the ‘MotherSchools: Parenting for Peace’ movement highlights that mothers indeed are effective in recognising and responding to early warning signs of radicalisation in their homes and communities. Yet Women without Borders (WwB) has found in both its research and work on the ground that fathers can be an obstacle to mothers’ efforts. A high number of participants cite their husbands’ relationship to them and their children as a chief contributing factor to tension and unrest at home. Many fathers present challenges to family cohesion due to, inter alia, poor communication skills, physical and mental absence, and a propensity for domestic violence. Having long recognised these issues, the MotherSchools Curriculum already includes a module entitled ‘Involving Fathers’.

FatherSchools promise to be more than just a mitigating measure: fathers could become unlikely male role models in traditional communities where notions of masculinity often are linked to violence and parenting tends to remain a woman’s affair. Fathers thus can be viewed as a missing puzzle piece in a family-based and whole-of-community security architecture. Parents, as a united front, have the strongest intervention potential in protecting adolescent and young adult children from being attracted to radical messages and recruiters. Ultimately, sensitising fathers to their ‘parenting for peace’ responsibility and engaging them through FatherSchools is a significant step in supplementing and building on the impact of the recent MotherSchools programme in Belgium. As no other organisation has brought fathers into the PVE fold in this manner, WwB decided to embark on an exploratory endeavour by developing its first FatherSchools Curriculum, with pilot programmes in Austria and Germany. Having laid the groundwork and garnered support from fathers in previously engaged communities in Belgium, FatherSchools Belgium presents a unique opportunity and ideal starting point to activate the untapped potential of fathers in safeguarding at-risk youth and communities.

 

MotherSchools Antwerp, Brussels, Liège | 2021-2022

Starting in 2021 with groundwork and desktop research, the first round of FatherSchools in Belgium was implemented in 2022 with fathers across three groups in Antwerp, Brussels, and Liège. Following a successful round of MotherSchools, WwB continued its partnership with local implementing partner Centre of Expertise and Advice for Prevention and Intervention of Radicalisation and Extremism (CEAPIRE) to bring the FatherSchools to Belgium with support from the U.S. Embassy in Brussels. Throughout the implementation of the FatherSchools, WwB collected qualitative and quantitative data through in-depth, semi-structured Entry and Exit interviews and Entry/Exit Questionnaires to measure distance travelled at an individual and group level and overall programmatic impact. Project findings are expected in the second half of 2022.

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