This article explores the history and main features of Women without Borders’ (WwB) MotherSchools and FatherSchools: Parenting for Peace programmes. It presents the results of the FatherSchools 2021 project, implemented in Villach in collaboration with the PIVA Association.
Women Without Borders’ (WwB) has been running ‘MotherSchools: Parenting for Peace’ since 2012, a recognised prevention programme that sensitises mothers to their role in actively and self-confidently intervening against extremism and becoming co-creators of a new security architecture: from Pakistan to Jordan, from Zanzibar to Tajikistan, from Northern Macedonia to Kosovo, from Indonesia via India to Austria, Germany and England. In response to the rare inclusion of the role of fathers in the security debate, WwB developed FatherSchools with the aim to actively involve fathers in family-centred prevention work and directly address limitations due to ideas of masculinity. FatherSchools were held in Austria for the first time in 2018 and were brought to Villach in 2021. Both the MotherSchools and FatherSchools programmes strive to empower mothers and fathers with self-awareness and parenting expertise in order to position them together as competent guides through the difficult phases of adolescence and to train them as competent interveners in crisis situations, such as receptivity to radical ideologies.
In this article, the three authors outline the background and aims of the Parenting for Peace programmes, both MotherSchools and FatherSchools. They then take a closer look at the FatherSchools project that was implemented in Villach in 2021 with local implementing partner PIVA Association. The findings in Villach correlated with observations from previous FatherSchools projects: The sessions primarily provide an excellent platform for the exchange of ideas regarding the upbringing of their children. WwB continues to hear from the fathers that they would never bring up parenting issues of their own accord – at least not in the form of dialogue and discussion; they feel that they know too little about it. On closer examination, however, it can be said that the latter is not entirely true. It often only needs legitimisation through discussion for them to dare to become active in education. A common realisation is that these “problems common to us all” – there is no such thing as a problem that only applies to me. Through the exercises in storytelling in FatherSchools, the fathers are able to break free from the spiral of self-incrimination. Storytelling not only creates solidarity (shared fate), but also self-confidence when the fathers take the narrative about themselves into their own hands. These observations and more can be found in the article, written by Prof. Ulrich Kropiunigg, Elisabeth Kasbauer, and Dr. Edit Schlaffer.