On December 1, 2016, partners of Bulgaria’s national “Being A Dad” campaign, including Association Roditeli, organized the “Being A Dad” conference in Sofia, Bulgaria with more than 90 participants. The goal of the conference was to share experiences of partners from across the country and to form recommendations for Bulgarian kindergartens, schools, and organizations that want to be involved in engaging men in fatherhood and caregiving.
To kick off the conference, representatives of the Bulgarian Ministry of Education, UNICEF Bulgaria, and the Oak Foundation welcomed and addressed conference participants. The day was then structured in two panels: “Dads at School and Kindergarten” and “Fathers and Men in Social Work.” CARE International Balkans’ John Crownover, a special speaker at the conference, gave a keynote presentation on how and why to invite fathers to get involved in their children’s schooling, drawing on global best practices.
Conference organizers were pleased with the participants’ spirit of community and collaboration, their exchange of experiences, and their desire to advance national work to engage men as equitable, nonviolent fathers and caregivers.
Conference conclusions and lessons learned:
Experiences shared during the conference made clear that inviting fathers to school is a successful strategy for engaging them in care. When schools proactively ask fathers to participate in events, fathers answer with enthusiasm. After participating, many fathers ask teachers when the next school event will be, collect ideas for future events, and even begin to organize events themselves.
“We have started something, and now we cannot stop,” said a teacher who attended the conference. “Parents are asking me all the time when we are going to invite the dads to school again.”
“We are part of the MenCare campaign because it has clear purpose and sense,” said Petya Rusinova, a conference attendee and the principal of the Nikola Vaptsarov Primary School in Selanovtsi village. “It is for the best of the children, the fathers, and the school.”
Social workers are also beginning to recognize the potential of men as partners in care, and as individuals who need to be engaged in social work. The conference revealed the need for closer collaboration between social workers and teachers, since teachers often know best which families are most in need of support.