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Men's clubs with a focus on equality: how conscious fatherhood culture grows in Ukraine

Mykola, 41, is a military. When the war broke out in Ukraine, he was at the frontline and had not seen his wife and two sons for four years. Now he considers this time lost because during the service he did not notice how his children grew up.

‘I was fighting when my sons went to school, made new friends, chose area of interests, future profession,’ says Mykola sadly. Now he is trying to catch up and become close with his teenage sons again. At the same time, he does not focus on the past but tries to concentrate as much as possible on the present and future.

The case of this family is not rare. According to GFK 2017, 80% of older men regret not spending enough time with their children in the past but have realized it too late. Even so, taking care of a child in Ukraine is still seen as a predominantly female responsibility. 

This is evidenced by the results of a survey of the United Nations Population Fund in Ukraine in 2020, according to which 65% of men support this view of thinking. In addition, most of the housework is traditionally seen as a matter of the woman. In this case, the mission of the fathers is to provide for the family. According to many men, work prevents them from devoting enough time to their children. However, although not only a mother but also a father can go for maternity leave to care for a child by law, only 3% of fathers use this opportunity. Moreover, a quarter of men surveyed strongly disagree with this possibility, even if their partner earns more. 

‘This situation can be explained by the persistence of gender stereotypes,’ says Valeria Taran-Gaiduk, a coordinator of the EU Program for Gender Equality and Domestic Violence, which is funded by the European Union and implemented jointly by UN Women and UNFPA.

Stereotypes prevent men from accepting the idea that being a caring, considerate husband and father is the same norm as gaining success and recognition in their careers. In addition, these roles are compatible.

 

At first glance, the situation is depressing, but it is not all bad. In recent years, there has been a slight but positive trend, in particular, due to information campaigns that promote changes in public attitudes. According to a UNFPA survey in 2020, 20% of mostly young dads are ready to take childcare leave. Due to the legislative changes, this number may increase, together with the number of conscious and responsible fathers in the country.

Everyone wins

Psychologists say the case of equal parenthood benefits all. If the father has a strong attachment to the child, the baby feels safe, develops well, has higher self-esteem, better mental health and higher ability to withstand stress in the future. Also, such teenagers have a lower risk of dangerous behavior: alcohol, drug addiction, and indiscriminate sex life. Children with strong emotional bonds with fathers have healthy relationships in the future, better achievements at school, university, and are successful in their careers.

In addition, dads also have several benefits in such cases. Besides having a harmonious, healthy relationship with the wife, a husband who is an equal father has a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, blood pressure problems, alcohol abuse, and mental illness development. Studies show that there is even a direct correlation between responsible parenting and satisfaction with a couple's sex life. Moreover, men who are conscious dads are more valuable to the employer. As caring for a child develops such desirable competencies as multitasking, stress resistance, the ability to set priorities correctly and adapt to unexpected situations. In general, in such a situation, the climate in the family is emotionally healthy, with less risk of domestic violence experience.

What tatohub is

To promote the topic of responsible parenthood, the United Nations Population Fund and its partners implement the tatohub model in various cities of Ukraine. They are clubs for men who are already parents or plan to become a dad. They aim to draw attention to the topics of responsible parenting and gender equality, as well as to develop parental competencies through education and entertainment with children.

Tatohub teams organize meetings and various leisure activities for men with children to teach them to spend time together qualitatively, as well as to be able to correct problematic aspects of communication. For that reason, each of the tatohubs in Ukraine employs psychologists who monitor the behavior of men during their communication with children and advise on how to improve interaction. What is important – most psychologists are male, which helps to create an atmosphere of trust.

‘In addition, we invite specialists of various areas: reproductive health, financial literacy, or partner childbirth. Because we understand that the needs of dads are different, so we try to expand the scope of work to respond to requests as much as possible,’ says Valeria Taran-Gaiduk.

Working with the topic of responsible fatherhood, UNFPA draws on international experience but adapts it to Ukrainian specifics. Implementing the entertainment component to the work, men’s clubs attract a loyal audience, but that is not all. All participants can attend a free course, which consists of seven classes: partnership with wife, being a father, two blocks of child psychology (from 0 to 9 years, from 9 to 18), non-conflict communication and child-rearing, domestic violence prevention, sex education and lesson on the men’s role during pregnancy and childbirth.

‘We interactively organize these classes. When a psychologist is not a mentor, but rather a moderator. Amid such circumstances, dads can discuss common myths, such as why, in their opinion, a girl should not play with a toy gun and a car, and a boy with a doll, and what are their arguments in this regard. What will happen if it is different? We want dads to become more aware, take responsibility for their children, and change themselves,’ says Valeria Taran-Gaiduk.

According to her, it is important to involve men in the topic of gender equality and overcoming stereotypes, not only to focus on women. As Valeria says, men should become agents of change to achieve balance.

Moreover, all tatohubs are inclusive, ‘so fathers with disabilities, children with disabilities can join the activities and not feel isolated’.

Tatohubs also organize events for families, because ‘to improve the family climate, both sides must move towards each other', says Valeria Taran-Gaiduk. 

Two moderators are involved in this format – a man and a woman, that helps create an atmosphere of mutual understanding and trust.

To implement the tatohub model in Ukraine, the UNFPA cooperates with local authorities and NGOs, providing them with informational support, appropriate training, and knowledge products for the work of clubs. Local communities are responsible for the further development of the implemented model.

‘Our common task is to make father and mother be one team, equal partners. Because a dad can do the same things as a mom, except breastfeed. What is important – with the same efficiency’, Valeria Taran-Gaiduk says.

Currently, eight tatohubs are operating in Ukraine: in Kramatorsk, Kyiv, Myrnohrad, Poltava, Odesa, Berdyansk, Vinnytsia, Troitske and TatoSchool in Zaporizhzhia. Although the working model of all clubs is the same, each of them has its peculiarities.

Kramatorsk

This eastern Ukrainian city was one of the first to start working with men on responsible parenting. The local tatohub operates within a fishermen's club and was opened under the auspices of the United Nations Program for Reconstruction and Peacebuilding, funded by 12 international partners. Accordingly, many activities are touristic there and are supervised by Yaroslav Boyko, a head of the Donetsk Federation of fishing.

The man was convinced from his experience of the scale of the problem of unequal distribution of childcare responsibilities. He opened a fishing school for children two years ago and was impressed that children are usually accompanied by their mothers to the river for practice.

‘This fact hit me. There are 56 children in the school, and for the whole year, I saw only 11 fathers. Only five of them visit the school constantly. Children worry when dad doesn’t come to important events – monthly meetings, exams. Also, it is very significant when we go to competitions with the federation and discuss various topics in an informal atmosphere, many men don’t want to discuss children’, Yaroslav Boyko says.

One big family

One of the features of the Kramatorsk tatohub is the arranging of seasonal family rafting. This event took place in 2019 for the first time. Then it became clear that rafting is a great opportunity for dads to spend quality leisure time with their families.

‘Whether it's fishing or rafting, it's a great opportunity to get closer. When a woman is cheering for her husband, it is a very emotional moment that helps to improve communication. They are a team. Even more, it is an opportunity for men to prove themselves. To show that he is cool in this, to be a role model for his child’, says Yaroslav Boyko. 

Moreover, the club organizes environmental actions (cleaning of beaches, parks), film screenings, festivals, game evenings, and informal men's meetings. During them, participants discuss life situations related to parenthood and partnership, as well as the interests of men. Also, they actively discuss gender stereotypes. According to Yaroslav, such an atmosphere is very conducive to better involvement of new participants in the already established company of Kramatorsk fathers. Currently, the club has more than 70 members.

‘We are like one big family. Conscious dads join us. That's why we don't organize anything just for the record. It's all for pleasure. In this way, we try to compensate for dads, children, wives moments of communication missed in the past, incomplete for today’, says Yaroslav Boyko.

The main way to attract dads to the club is through social networks. The tatohub team actively covers its activities there and shares announcements of planned events. According to Yaroslav, activities attract the attention of men.

‘Everyone in town knows about tatohub. They know that it is a space where a man can have a great time with his child. This is tempting. And when a father has already adapted to the company, the work is launched to raise the level of his responsibility as a father and partner. Because, if we immediately press with awkward questions, we will lack participants’, says the curator of the Kramatorsk tatohub.

Fathers’ problems

However, entertainment is not the only thing. An important area of work of clubs is the educational component. Tatohub provides psychological and legal advice for all willing men. According to Yaroslav, participants often complain about lack of time due to work and lack of privacy for themselves.

‘In such cases, we advise them to spend a small amount of free time from work on quality leisure with children, instead of thoughtlessly lying on the couch. We teach doing things that bring pleasure to both father and children’, says Yaroslav.

Partner pressure because of unemployment is also a big challenge for men. In such situations, the tatohub team, in cooperation with the employment agency and center of excellence, helps men to acquire new expertise. 

COVID-19 lockdown has become a significant challenge for many families. A constant presence in one space led to new conflicts, as well as revealed the problem of lack of common interests and inability to spend time together.

‘There were situations when participants got depressed because of realizing the fact that he and his wife are strangers, despite so many years being together’, says Yaroslav Boyko. – That's why we tried to soothe, held joint competitions for families, individual online consultations, shared ideas of joint family leisure. We started with a simple thing – sending board games by mail’.

According to Yaroslav, the lack of healthy communication skills leads to domestic violence experience. The curator says that every second or third family faces this problem. The possibility of individual work with a psychologist is extremely important in such cases. During classes with abusers, tatohub experts focus on the consequences of such behavior for the child, the impact of violence on the financial situation and prospects. Also, interaction with families with healthy relations is quite effective.

‘The role model works well. Because the environment is very influential. With the help of conscious men, we try to reach those who perceive violent behavior as the norm. Very often, without realizing it’, says Yaroslav Boyko.

A hammer that strikes

Yaroslav calls gender stereotypes ‘a hammer that always strikes at them’. Young members of the club play a significant role in overcoming this problem. They debunk common gender stereotypes during informal conversations with older men. For example, one dad shared his experience of competition with his wife on washing the dishes on the speed and advised others to try to diversify everyday life.

Also, the team of Kramatorsk tatohub considers the involvement of young people as an essential aspect of working to achieve gender equality and conscious fatherhood. The club has a large volunteer network of people aged 14 to 23. Yaroslav calls cooperation with them a ‘work for the future’ because they are all future partners and parents. Within this area of work, tatohub arranges classes on sex education, rules of a healthy partnership, and conscious parenting. In addition, young people ask the team to organize work with their parents to debunk gender stereotypes.

The first achievements

Although the model of tatohubs in Ukraine is relatively new, the Kramatorsk club has the first results of the work. 

‘One of the positive examples is three families who are friends with each other. They came to us having an unstable atmosphere in their families. A week after the rafting, the men initiated a joint active weekend in nature with their children and wives. One joint event has become a kind of lesson for them that it is possible to have a great time together without expensive hotels and restaurants,’ says Yaroslav Boyko. 

Also, membership in the club inspires some families to make drastic changes. According to Yaroslav, this happened in the case of Serhiy*. The man had been working as a janitor for many years and also always looking for extra part-time work to meet the needs of the family. That’s why he spent very little time with his wife and son, who is fond of the violin and is a student of Boyko’s fishing school. Once Serhiy came to rafting with his child, this experience has become a turning point for the whole family. He enjoyed leisure time with his relatives so much that decided to completely change his lifestyle by completing SMM courses and resigning as a janitor. Now the couple goes to their son's competitions together and does everything to develop his music skills. 

Tatohub.Kramatorsk was opened together with NGO "UA Fishing Club" in collaboration with NGO "Pokrovsk regional organization of people with disabilities" under The United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme (UN RPP) is being implemented by four United Nations agencies: the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Twelve international partners support the Programme: the European Union (EU), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, and the governments of Canada, Denmark, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden & Switzerland.

Poltava

Unlike Kramatorsk, the tatohub in Poltava is a new center of responsible fatherhood in Ukraine. It was opened at the city library in June 2021 and has already organized two large-scale events – a flash mob for Family Day in May and a street festival for Father's Day – "Father Fest Poltava 2021". The opening of Poltava tatohub became possible due to the Springboard to Equality project, which is funded by Sweden’s government.

‘Dads’ emotions were unique, – says Yulia Trunova, a coordinator of the Poltava tatohub. – We set up nine locations for parents with children – from a master class on first aid in emergencies to yoga with dads. After experiencing them, fathers took part in a win-win lottery and received our souvenirs. The men were very happy that someone had finally paid attention to them and organized a special event because they think that usually, in similar activities, the focus is on mothers’. 

The topic of responsible fatherhood is very relevant for Poltava because gender stereotypes are still common to its citizens. However, according to the project coordinator Yulia Trunova, a lot of men are ready to take part in the project, because many people have a huge vested interest in this topic. 

Although the active work of Poltava tatohub will begin in September, the team has already planned to arrange a joint event with the police on domestic violence prevention, as well as to promote the club among Poltava residents at the public sector festival this summer. Yulia Trunova is confident that the participation of a representative of law enforcement agencies will help to better inform men and women about the problem of gender-based violence, as well as assure participants that the law is on the side of the victim in such cases.

Besides education, tatohub will provide psychological counseling. Since the club team includes psychologists – both a man and woman, there is a possibility to work with married couples.

‘In terms of partnerships, we will promote the idea that when a man washes the dishes, he is not helping the woman, but doing his part of home stuff. This should be perceived as a partnership, but not assistance. In the same way, they together have a child, not just a mum does’, says Yulia Trunova.

Also, tatohub will promote the values of equality among young people, working with students, because they are potential future parents. Moreover, an important area of tatohub’s activities is work with men who only plan parenthood. This issue is also raised within tatohub classes. 

To expand the audience, the team plans to hold online events, because, according to the coordinator, not every parent will find time for a personal visit.

What is interesting – the library, where a tatohub operates, is specialized in gender literature, and all participants have free access to the relevant books.

Among the most frequent areas of men’s interests, Yulia names child psychology and education, as well as ways to find common ground with a child of different ages.

‘We are open-minded to any questions. After all, we want to become the space where dads will feel comfortable and not be afraid to come,’ says Yulia Trunova.

Tatohub.Poltava was opened under "Springboard to Equality" Project funded by Sweden. 

Odesa

Overcoming gender stereotypes is a priority of the tatohub in Odesa, which has been working since December 2020. For Odesa, as well as for other Ukrainian cities, this issue is still relevant. To achieve this goal, the club team organizes various events that force men to step outside their comfort zone. For example, on the eve of St. Nicholas Day, fathers and children took part in a master class on making Christmas gingerbread. This way of leisure was unexpected for both men and children.

‘In this way, we try to overcome the stereotyped ideas about the role of men in the family. Mostly, the children were very surprised that they had to cook with dads, not moms. A psychologist was observing the process and advising in a friendly, unobtrusive way on communication with the child and was promoting the ideas of the project,’ says Alyona Yukhimchuk, an assistant of the tatohub project.

Members of Odesa tatohub had also the opportunity to improve their cooking skills during a competition on the eve of International Women's Day. Dads competed in cooking the best breakfast for their partners. Alyona Yukhimchuk claims that the ideas were more than unusual.

‘We got approximately 20 works and only a few of them were simple, like a sandwich or an omelet. The rest of the dads cooked real dishes: kebabs, seafood, fish, potatoes. We were sincerely happy with how much the men tried their best for families,’ says Alyona Yukhimchuk.

Besides cooking, Odesa's dads practiced pair yoga with children. According to the assistant coordinator of tatohub, they were mostly skeptical at first, but during the master class the mood changed, the men sincerely tried and rejoiced in their success. The team of the dads' club assures that such leisure is a great opportunity for an adult to interact with a child. After all, both are maximally involved in the process, attentive to each other, and have fun.

Children and their parents try to help each other, to be a close-knit team. The adult is concentrated on the child. And this leads to good results. During surfing on social networks, I have noticed that our participants have begun to spend more time with their children. There is a positive dynamic in the relationship from a visit to visit,’ says Alyona Yukhimchuk.

Not offline only

Apart from face-to-face activities, the tatohub team works online. Due to this, the work of the club did not stop even during the quarantine restrictions. Dads and children made Christmas wreaths and cooked various desserts.

According to Alyona Yukhimchuk, about 60 men have attended their events – both current and future dads. But also there is a company of men who take part in the activities of the tatohub constantly.

‘There are about 20 such men, but for us, it’s not quantity but quality matters. The more permanent participants we will have, the better the result will be. We want to involve people who support the idea of responsible parenthood and are ready to promote it by themselves,’ says Alyona Yukhimchuk.

The audience of most Odesa tatohub activities is fathers with children, but the club also organizes family events. If at the start of the project, moms were very interested in participating in the club’s activities, now they use the opportunity to devote this time to themselves while the father is taking care of the child. The project assistant says it's helpful for everyone, because in such a situation, dads have the opportunity to be alone with the child and establish an emotional connection without ‘hogging the covers’ with mom. It even happens that women thank the club team for changing their family atmosphere for the better.

Gender stereotypes

However, not all dads of the club share the principles of equal relations. Psychologists notice signs of domestic violence in some families’ behavior. In such cases, experts do their best to involve aggressors in individual work to convince them that such behavior is destructive and traumatic.

‘During the conversation, we focus on the influence of such communication on the child. For example, we arranged a master class on drawing and analyzed the emotional state of the child by the colors of the picture. Children in such families are usually closed. Accordingly, this is evident from their drawings. We talked about it with a dad. Of course, we faced resistance at first. But what is important – we informed him about the complexity of the issue. Fortunately, there have been only two similar cases in our practice so far,’ says the project assistant.

Community and the example of families where equality and harmony prevail play an important role in overcoming stereotypes. For example, younger members of the club are more loyal to the topic of men's maternity leave. Older men are harder to persuade. According to Alyona Yukhimchuk, there is a noticeable transformation of young people's views towards healthy relationships.

Quite often men are interested in the problems of age psychology of children, relationships with adolescents, and the peculiarities of communication when there are several children in the family.

According to Alyona Yukhimchuk, the idea of the project is accepted by many in the city, and the best confirmation of that is that the club members invite friends.

‘This is a wonderful, positive project with good goals. During our work, we did not receive any criticism, only hints why there are still no organized clubs for mothers. But we know that with the start of pregnancy, a woman immediately surrounds herself with like-minded people. But it is still an issue for men who are planning or have already become dads,’ says the assistant of the project.

The Odesa tatohub team actively involves police officers and cadets of the Odesa State University of Internal Affairs, who just plan to become parents, to participate in the activities of the tatohub. For them, tatohub psychologists conduct classes on gender stereotypes, partnerships, nonviolent communication with practical game exercises.

For example, during a lesson "I will be a dad" about partner's pregnancy for police officers, a tatohub psychologist together with a female psychologist not only explained how to support a woman during pregnancy, but also acted out real-life scenes of a couple expecting a baby.

According to Andriy Kostyuk, a tatohub psychologist, some messages and reactions of the female psychologist were quite unexpected not only for the participants, but also for himself. 

Male participants mentioned the myth that it is better to be excluded during the wife's pregnancy, to minimize communication to irritate her less. Psychologist Iryna Zhukova replied: “You do not understand how important men’s support in details is for women. Something may seem unimportant to men, but for women at the moment of emotional fluctuations could be of great importance. And it doesn't matter what it could be – watching a movie together, walking together, or presenting a cucumber on a plate".

Tatohub.Odesa is implemented in the framework of the “EU 4 Gender Equality: Together against gender stereotypes and gender-based violence” programme, funded by the European Union, implemented jointly by UN Women and UNFPA.
 

Online-hub in Kyiv

The main difference of the tatohub in the Ukrainian capital is its virtuality. The club was launched in April 2021, at the height of quarantine restrictions due to COVID-19. The need to comply with security rules has become the reason for the work to start online. Moreover, this format is more convenient for the club members as Kyiv is a megalopolis. 

Considering this feature, the main activity of Kyiv tatohub is education in social networks. Among the team of tatohub are two psychologists who write longrids on actual topics every week. According to Oleksandr Ostapa, the communication manager of Tatohub.Kyiv, usually there are gender stereotypes and nuances of child-rearing. 

‘Many men are afraid to demonstrate how good dads they can be. It is often asked how not to become less courageous amid gentle communication with the child. We also have dads in the group who rear children alone. Quite often they do not know the basics, do not know whom to ask for advice. And now, due to a powerful community, they have the opportunity to share their experience, get the feedback not only of experts but also the experience of the same dads as they are,’ says Oleksandr Ostapa.

There is a possibility to ask questions in the group anonymously, sending it by email. In addition to regular Facebook posts, webinars, and thematic live broadcasts, tatohub produces its podcast, which is published in two formats. The first is a conversation with a psychologist on a topic relevant to the group members, and the second is a conversation with interesting dads who debunk gender stereotypes. One of the episodes was dedicated to the experience of a man who launched two kindergartens.

Space of equality

Currently, the virtual tatohub has about a thousand members, 70% of whom are men and 30% are women. According to the club's communications manager, they follow a policy of non-discrimination and welcome mothers interested in their work.

Many proactive dads are actively involved in the activities of the club and the care of the child.

‘For example, one father inspects various places in Kyiv for accessibility for parents with children in strollers. The last one was Boryspil Airport’, says Oleksandr Ostapa.

Also, one of the participants of the Kyiv tatohub is a policeman Serhiy Bagalika. The man is on maternity leave to care for his son. At the same time, he blogs, shares his experience of child-caring, and promotes responsible parenting. According to Oleksandr Ostapa, the example of such dads helps to overcome gender stereotypes among those who do not feel confident as a parent due to widespread social attitudes.

‘We are trying to create a coalition of men who are not afraid to be attentive dads. Because many are still ashamed of it. They are often afraid of publicity, but at the same time are active in direct messaging. Our main goal is to emphasize that every man does not help his wife to rear a child, he is a full-fledged father who cares for a child on a par with a partner. And it's okay,’ says Oleksandr Ostapa. 

Despite working online, the Kyiv tatohub also aims to arrange offline events. During the months of work, the team has already organized two events – filming a video for the song of the band "Antytila" as part of the all-Ukrainian flash mob for Family Day, and also taking part in the municipal festival on the eve of Father's Day. At the event, psychologists presented interactive lectures on parental burnout and how to communicate with children – to hear and be heard. And also a guest speaker gave a lecture on financial literacy for children to parents. Now the club has planned a series of events aimed to attract dads who rear children alone or children with disabilities.

Oleksandr Ostapa is confident that offline events are a great way to expand the club's audience and increase the number of conscious men. 

To achieve this, the tatohub team submitted a project to launch a physical club for consideration to include it in the public budget of Kyiv. 

‘With this initiative, we provoked the beginning of more active cooperation with various social services of the Kyiv administration to reach the male audience in person,’  says Oleksandr.

In addition, an important method of promoting the club's ideas is cooperation with the media. The team works on various formats of such cooperation. There are plans to release a thematic podcast on the ‘Suspilne’ media group, the cooperation with ‘Football’ TV channel, as well as a series of blogs on responsible parenting.

Tatohub.Kyiv is implemented in the framework of the “EU 4 Gender Equality: Together against gender stereotypes and gender-based violence” programme, funded by the European Union, implemented jointly by UN Women and UNFPA.

Zaporizhzhia

Tatohub in Zaporizhzhia will be opened in the end of October with Swedish support, the club team has been actively working with local dads for the second year in a row. The project is called "Turbotato" and is implemented online in four directions. The team of tatohub arranges a regular dad school and an interactive game – dad quiz; produces social videos to engage the audience to the topic of responsible parenting, and now works on organization of a festival aimed to unite all the active dads of Zaporizhzhia. After all, every event of the club is visited by different men. 

According to the project psychologist Artem Pikushchenko, various dads with various life experiences, different life positions and experiences of relationships with their children join them.

‘It's all about stereotypes. Zaporizhzhia is an industrial city where outdated ideas about the of roles in the family prevail. Because of this, sometimes it is difficult even to recruit a group. We are ready to work with different topics and aspects if only there was a request,’ says project coordinator Anna Chernova.

Such circumstances influence the statistics. Only 30 men attended all classes, or its part, out of 60 registered for this year's dad school. Among the classes’ topics are managing stress, attachment theory, gender-based violence, and healthy communication. Artem Pikushchenko says that each group of dads is special and their problems and requests are always different. Some men are not aware of their aggressive behavior, but due to examples of gender-based violence, they realize themselves in it. The attachment to child and unveiling of the effects of their child experience in communication with parents are often very influential on men's minds. When dads unconsciously behave the way their parents treated them in their childhood: when say not to cry, as men don't cry, when focus not on achievements but on mistakes, leave the child to cope with difficult circumstances on their own, even if the child asks for help.

However, according to the psychologist, one of the most dynamic topic is managing stress and discussing various ways to deal with it. 

From the civil service to own business for the sake of the family

According to the team, they received positive feedback from participants despite the complexity of some topics. The survey revealed that 71% of tatohub members have changed their behavior to be more gender-sensitive.

‘Recently, a participant of last year's school, Anatoliy*, called me. When he attended our school, he was a civil servant, constantly working late, and dealing with part of the work duties at home. He had no time for close relations with his family. Dad's school was the turning point for him. He resigned and began growing vegetables and fruits in his garden. Today, his business is growing, and now he cultivates entire fields. Moreover, he consistently spends a day a week with his teenage son. I am proud of such transformation in which I was involved’, says Artem Pikushchenko.

Go offline

The physical tatohub will be opened in the city this autumn. At the same time, the team has planned to organize joint leisure events to demonstrate to men the various opportunities and their positive impact on communication with children. According to Olesya Krasnokutska, a communication manager of tatohub, there is a demand for family events, and it is important not to exclude mothers from the work.

‘Very often women register their partners for our events and sometimes attend our classes with them with the cameras off. Also, when we ask our members for feedback, men often tell us that it would be great to involve their partners. It is often mentioned that men would have come, but with a wife. So, we will work in this direction,’ says Olesya Krasnokutska.

Impact through influencers

To attract an unprepared audience for the club's topic, tatohub actively collaborates with influencers who promote the principles of equality and responsible fatherhood to the masses.

‘We are betting on this method of promotion. After all, the city lacks public examples of responsible fatherhood. We are currently preparing themed billboards with various famous people. So far, unfortunately, the critical mass of the population in Zaporizhzhia is not enough for the project to work, only thanks to the rumor mill. The easiest way is to attract men with the help of women – to motivate them to motivate their partners. But we want men to realize the need by themselves. To reach out to the dads who don't realize the problem and ignore the child's needs is the hardest issue. But we will do our best’, says the project coordinator, Anna Chernova.

Fathers School works under Programme "EU 4 Gender Equality and Against GBV" anf funded by European Union. 

Myrnograd

A tatohub of crafts operates in this eastern Ukrainian city and, despite the non-standard direction, is very popular among the people of Myrnohrad. As of now, there are 17 active members of the club, but this number varies from event to event because many men join not always.

The dad's club operates based on a school workshop, where they hold master classes in pottery, carpentry, metalwork, stained-glass, gingerbread making, painting, and mural. In addition, the tatohub team organizes three-day kayak rafting on the Siverskyi Donets River and one-day activities, called Tatoregata, at the local lake. According to a communication manager, Darya Kondratieva, such non-standard activities unite families so much.

Also, among the activities, the club held: participation in the all-Ukrainian flash mob for Family Day, in the city festival, and arranging informal men's conversations with the head of the carpentry workshop Andriy. Moreover, he conducts classes at the dad's school together with a psychologist. 

‘He is very passionate about the idea of the project. Since Andriy Viktorovych has been working as a teacher at a local school for a long time, the members of the club are mostly his students, so he is, firstly, a role model for them, and secondly, they trust him,’ says the tatohub communication manager.

Taking into account the city’s features, tatohub creates opportunities for citizens to spend quality leisure time with children, because, according to communication manager Darya Kondratieva, there are problems with this.

‘The area where the club was opened is not very developed, quite remote. There is only one school and a post office, but also – seven shops selling alcoholic beverages. Moreover, there is a problem with drug addiction. That’s why such initiatives like ours are in short supply,’ says Darya.

To improve the situation in Myrnohrad, the proactive members of the club decided to create a sports ground and purchased the necessary materials at their own expense. Also, at carpentry master classes, dads made wooden benches by themselves so that children and parents will have a comfortable space for leisure.

According to a communication manager, Darya Kondratieva, men need to take part in such activities.

‘It seems that they become heroes for their children during such moments. They need to be involved in the life of the baby. And it is an extra reason to show that they can do more than just earning money. In this way, they are better able to design emotional connections with children,’ says Darya Kondratieva. 

Myrnohrad is mainly a mining town. Therefore, a big issue for parents is the lack of time for leisure with children. For this reason, tatohub does not have a stable schedule of activities, but adjusts to the schedule of parents, because as Darya considers, ‘a club needs to be sensitive to the audience, the nuances of their lifestyle’. 

Also, an important aspect of tatohub's work is inclusion. According to Darya Kondratieva, Roma children, who live near tatohub, join the club’s activities. 

‘Children come to our workshops, so we have the opportunity to promote certain messages with their help. I believe that our tatohub contributes to their integration into the community. They feel comfortable with us because they are taken seriously and accepted,’ says Darya. 

Among the club's coming plans are an organization of a quest for Miner's Day, the launch of a thematic podcast and work to attract new members.

‘Dads don't say directly how much the club influences their lives. However, they always tell us that they will come again, and how good it is to have such an opportunity for leisure. We present emotions. It is noticeable that they enjoy it. They leave our events inspired,’ says Darya Kondratieva.

Tatohub.Myrnograd was opened together with NGO "Portal Poshuk"  under The United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme (UN RPP) is being implemented by four United Nations agencies: the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Twelve international partners support the Programme: the European Union (EU), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, and the governments of Canada, Denmark, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden & Switzerland.

Berdiansk

In the southeast of Ukraine, tatohub is special. Besides working with citizens, they also work with local communities and Donbas war veterans, as well as internally displaced people. This topic is especially close to the head of the project Olga Frolova, as her husband took part in the anti-terrorist operation in eastern Ukraine. Therefore, the team realizes well the scale of the problem and the requests of such dads.

‘During working with a group of veterans, we will arrange art therapy workshops with children. We will talk about how they can transform inner aggression through creativity, and why a child needs to live with the father in a safe and creative environment. The main problems are the aloofness and issues they face after returning to a peaceful life. Because no matter who, where, or how long they fought, the time a man was outside the family has a strong influence on the relationship among family. Many veterans feel guilty about not being home for several years. Men and children suffer from this. Our task is to tell them how to solve it, find a resource, interact safely, and why the problem is urgent,’ says Olga Frolova. 

Moreover, according to Olga Frolova, it will allow creating a community with a single context not only related to the war, but also the fatherhood. Working with IDPs is natural as there are a lot of people from Donbas in Berdyansk.

Dad in the village

Project ‘Tatohub. Berdyansk’ is well-known outside the coastal city. Representatives of local communities often invite the club team to work with their men. According to Olga Frolova, despite the widespread stereotype that men in the village usually do not care for children, fathers there are more interested in tatohub interactions than participants from the city.

‘Our experience broke this stereotype. Dads in the village often ask specific questions: about food, rest, medicine, support. Of course, sometimes there are cases of stereotypical thinking in these questions, but our psychologist immediately reacts to this. The most common questions in small communities are how to find time for leisure activities with children and when it is advisable to involve the child in housework and gardening’, says Olga Frolova.

Despite the recent start of the project, the tatohub team has already got invitations to cooperate with schools, offers to raise the issue of responsible parenting at parent meetings, as well as arranging lessons for students.

“Tatosport” and “tatoart”

The first activities took place in June 2021 on the eve of International Father's Day. Currently, the active work of the club is arranged around the summer leisure. Thus, the team cooperates with the club of sailors and organizes classes in swimming and sailing within the "Tato sporthub". Also, dads with children go for yoga and other sports activities. The psychologist observes these events and informs about the impact of joint leisure, both on the parent and the child.

Another important area of work of the Berdyansk tatohub is "Tato arthub". It is a series of various creative master classes for dads and children, including painting, soap making, and cooking of the author's chocolate. All these classes are held by active citizens who are not indifferent to the topic of responsible parenthood. 

Berdyansk tatohub team actively adopts the experience of colleagues from other cities. Thus, the exhibition ‘Atypical professions’ about men, busy in traditionally ‘female’ professions, firstly organized by the Odesa tatohub, has been opened in Berdyansk.

Besides various activities, tatohub confidently promotes the educational component. As part of the project "Faculty of Paternity," it has already arranged a master class "The future of the child through the parent’s eyes". During it, they told how to support the child while entering school, how the adaptation goes on, what expectations the child has, and what fears parents have. Similar interactive lectures on the topics of financial literacy, partner childbirth and the role of the father in the child's life are also to be organized.

Moreover, tatohub will arrange a school of family relations for young people this year in autumn. The team will teach both women and men the rules of equal partnership. According to the head of the Berdyansk club, gender stereotypes are common not only among men but also among women.

Due to cooperation with ‘Red Cross’, fathers in Berdyansk can learn the rules of first aid. Also, tatohub actively cooperates with local authorities, other public organizations, as well as representatives of the city business, that allow it to organize events in aqua park, dinosaurs park, zoo, etc.

As in many other cities, there is a request from mothers to be involved in the community of Berdyansk tatohub. However, the club team aims to create a male community, where dads will feel comfortable sharing problems, experiences, and knowledge. The number of participants has mostly increased due to the rumor mill, but also, social networks play an important role in men's involvement.

Although very often the club members discuss awkward topics, the team has never faced public resistance and criticism. According to Olga Frolova, the reason is that only conscious dads join them. However, there are cases of unhealthy behavior.

‘Once a man accidentally told us a story that he restricts his daughter in food because he is afraid that she will get fat. Our psychologist immediately reacted to this and explained that it is an act of violence. Even then, the reaction was not aggressive, rather the man was forced to think about his behavior,’ says the head of the project.

The topic of separation from a child is extremely actual for men. One of the members of the club, who rears two daughters by himself, reacts very painfully to their growing and is afraid to let them go. He told his feelings to the team's psychologists.

‘He clearly admits that feels sorry that his daughters do not pay enough attention to him, as he does his best for them. We explain that it is a natural process. But he overprotects them. He tries to compensate for mother’s absence. For sure, It's hard for him to hear our advice, but it makes him think. What is important – he is ready for changes,’ says Olga.

Also, among the members of the club are fathers with disabilities and those who rear children with disabilities. That means that tatohub is completely inclusive.

According to Olga Frolova, during the months of work, they feel only good dynamics: ‘This is a cool project that passes through yourself. It is very gratifying when men share their experience of participating in the community publicly, proudly talk about it, and do not feel ashamed. These are such small steps, but they are effective because without them there will be no change’.

Tatohub.Berdyank was opened together with NGO "South-East Association of Art Therapists and Practical Psychologists" under The United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme (UN RPP) is being implemented by four United Nations agencies: the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Twelve international partners support the Programme: the European Union (EU), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, and the governments of Canada, Denmark, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden & Switzerland.

*Names changed for privacy reasons.