Seema Moonilal, 22, is this year’s Divali Queen. The 22-year-old won the title and $20,000 on Monday night at the National Council of Indian Culture (NCIC), in Chaguanas.
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Single fathers want more say in children’s lives
Rhondall Feeles, founder of the Single Fathers Association of T&T, wants to help single fathers who would like more responsibility in their children’s lives. The group, which he started a month ago, hopes to meet with the incoming Justice Minister, Christlyn Moore, to discuss court orders which place children in the primary care of their mothers. Moore is to be sworn in as minister this week.
Feeles said, “There are men who are willing to be part of their children’s lives and we are embarking on a recruitment drive for fellow supporters and single fathers.” However, he said the group was supportive of single-parent families on the whole, adding that the drive would also target single mothers going through similar distress. The organisation’s latest meeting, at the Chaguanas Sports Facility, drew “a good turnout,” Feeles said.
“There will be another meeting next week. We will hand out flyers at the Family Court and create awareness on the morning shows. We had people come from as far as Tobago,” he said. “We also support women who support men. There are men who have not seen their children in years and many of those children do not have a father figure in their lives. We have women who attended the meeting because they see the significance of having a father in their kids’ lives.”
Feeles said some of the men were emotional throughout the meeting, to the point of tears, because they were frustrated with the system. “Several of the men have not seen their children in years and even broke down in tears. One father said he wanted to see his child no matter what the consequences were. He was frustrated to that point,” he said. He said the group lobbies against the traditional bias against men at family courts.
“Men are seen as deadbeats and the norm is that they don’t want to be involved in their children’s lives. There are men who are willing to be involved in their kids’ lives, but due to the way the court order is, they get left out,” he said. Feeles is advocating for a change to the system that would give greater responsibility to fathers.
“The orders don’t teach fathers to be responsible and it is unfair for the women to have all the responsibility to take of the child,” he said. I would think it would create responsibility if the courts order fathers with more time to execute their duty.”