May 15 marks the International Day of Families every year. The Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 and provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to the family and recognizing its significant role as major agent of sustainable development in the society. The theme for this year is “Men in charge? Gender equality and children’s rights in contemporary families”.

In commemoration of this day, the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) in collaboration with Women’s Board brought together friends and partners in a seminar on the sub-theme “Supporting Families: A part to National Development”, to share ideas and raise awareness on the importance of families in attaining sustainable development.

In UN Secretary General’s message shared at the event by UNIC, he stated that this year’s theme “highlights the importance of gender equality and children’s rights in contemporary families […] yet in too many countries, discrimination against women and disregard for children’s rights remain built into family laws and Government policies, and prevailing social norms often condone and justify many discriminatory practices”.

A Speaker at the seminar, Dr. Mrs Grace Evbuowam explored the development of the family in the context of the Millennium Development Goals. She emphasized that the family is the most important unit of the society in fulfilling the physical and emotional needs of individuals, which is required in turn for achieving economic and social development.

Barr. Mike Ijeh, speaking on the unique contributions of fathers to adolescent development, identified the family as the primary educator of children and calls for the complimentary model of masculinity which recognizes and appreciates what the woman and children bring on board and encourages working together to achieve more. He described fatherhood as a call to the man to bring his masculine gift to serve others, help in forming character and to protect.

Joy Yakubu, General Secretary of YWCA of Nigeria who attended the event shared that “we are all products of families, and it has in one way or the other contributed to what we are today. Unfortunately, the family platform has been used to reinforce the cycle of negative culture like child/early or forced marriage, FGM and other forms of violence against women and girls. But, we can use family as the first platform for education in breaking this cycle by educating our family members differently”.

Discussions around the negative effects of some cultures came out strong and a call was made for families to recognize and adopt cultural practices that do not encourage discrimination or reinforce the vulnerability of some family members.