As Trinidad and Tobago commemorated International Men’s Day yesterday, there were calls for Caricom leaders to increase paternity leave as well as implement legislation to incorporate fair treatment to fathers when it comes to co-parenting.
The calls came from Rhondall Feeles, president of the Fathers Association Trinidad and Tobago.
Bringing greetings to all men yesterday on International Men’s Day, Feeles in a social media post said, “We are men and in that similarity we stand in solidarity. I take this opportunity today to put forward regionally to all heads of state throughout our region some suggestions that I believe can uplift and empower our men toward positive transformation.”
Feeles said there was the need to increase paternity leave across the Caribbean to 30 working days and a minimum of 20 stay away from work days with a maximum of ten days working from home where it may be possible.
He said such a move would combat parental alienation and ensure men get the opportunity to be part of their children’s lives from early on. Feeles also called for proper co-parenting policies to prevent fathers from being excluded.
“There must also be a minimal access order of 12 days awarded to non-custodial parents where shared parenting cannot work.
“Drafting and passage of laws that deter persons from paternity fraud. In an age of DNA testing. Presumption of paternity by way of marriage and signing of the birth paper by the presumed father should no longer be utilised to determine paternity particularly for the making of maintenance orders,” Feeles said.
With regards to men’s and boys’ health, Feeles said there was a need to examine the current healthcare system with the intent to create workable frameworks for men and boys.
“Examine the root causes for the high percentage of men at our mental health facilities across the region (in Grenada we were told 80 per cent of those patients are men); Develop a strategy to reduce the high percentage of male suicides across the region. The Ministry of Health Trinidad stated that from the period between 2019 to 2021 (260) males committed suicide, 79.8 per cent of the suicides recorded over that period.
Since then to present day 2023, the suicide rate in men and boys is perceived to have increased exponentially. Introduce Community Destressing Centre for men, well maintained facilities that cater to holistic needs of a man...spiritual, physical, emotional and economical development of men and boys,” he said.
Feeles added that society must place more focus and attention on the well-being of men in a bid to strive and move past some of the ills plaguing the country.
“We remind our leaders and women folk across the region that a society of men operating at a low capacity is actually a detrimental, counterproductive and more dangerous thing for women and other men in our society. Let us embrace this opportunity and commit to making the lives of the men around the world a more meaningful one. Let us make men aware that their lives do matter and we see their contributions daily to our society,” he added.