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16 May 2022
UWC hosts webinar in celebration of International Day of Families
Many South African families are in crisis. Families experience daily challenges and the COVID-19 pandemic significantly deepened those challenges. Unemployment, poverty, hunger, and drug-dependent family members are but a few of many examples.

Dr Serena Isaacs, a senior lecturer in Psychology at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), hosted the recent webinar this week seeking answers to questions such as, What are some of the major challenges families are experiencing? And, what types of support do families need in SA today?
Dr Serena Isaacs

The webinar - Celebrating International Day of Families: Supporting Families – Are we measuring the outcomes?  - was held as a precursor to International Day of Families on Sunday, 15 May. The day emphasises the importance of families as the cornerstone of society. 

Dr Isaacs said, “All families are not equal and experience problems to different extents. Their economic stability, safety and security, and psycho-social challenges all differ, as well as their access to health and education resources. A lack in these areas contributes to family instability. 
“It is a common fact that the help our families receive from the government is severely limited, and if we as a country want to strengthen families, we need to do so from a holistic point of view, not only on a psychosocial (or social welfare) level, but also in terms of education, the economy, health and safety.”

The recent webinar featured four panellists, all with extensive experience in the area of family. It included, among others, development practitioner Ms Imelda Diouf, a teacher and volunteer who advocates for the need for better data collection and analytics to support a pro-family approach. It also included Dr Zenobia Carolus, a registered social worker with 42 years experience in the field of social work and who still volunteers in the community. Her experience includes direct social work in government and work with non-governmental organisations.

Isaacs said, “There is a lot of amazing work being done with families, but there seems to be a disjuncture between what South African families understand regarding which services, programmes and resources are available. 

“With this webinar, we found that we - as non-government, academics and volunteers - need to bridge this gap to serve communities the best we can with the limited resources we have. As South African family advocates, perhaps we need to consider how we measure appropriate outcomes for South African families and tackle problems from this vantage point. 
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“Each family has its own unique system that helps them to work together, and they need to be supported to reach their goal of achieving stronger family ties. The challenge is that families are relational and generational and little forethought has been given to how we tackle the ongoing problems to help families over time.

Dr Isaacs, whose research focuses on family resilience, said the aim was really to celebrate families by asking whether or not we are measuring the outcomes of research performed on South African families. I think this webinar clarified that with research and interventions offered by different organisations, there is a lot of information available, but it is housed within those organisations and isn't shared with the community as effectively as it should be. Instead, it is stored and never used again. 

“We have to think long-term and need to get better at sharing and coordinating efforts - especially making information accessible to South African families. 

“The respective organisations such as NGOs, non-profit organisations, government departments, universities and family networks need to work together to this end,” Dr Isaacs concluded.

The event partners agreed that a family is the basic and most important institution of society. A nation is built on the family system. It is the place where we receive our first education and where values and other traits are learned. It is therefore our responsibility to develop the right attitudes towards our families, because a family in harmony will prosper in everything.”

Some of the expert panellists included representatives from the Centre for Family Studies (CFS), Families in Context Social Service (FIC), Families South Africa (FAMSA) and the Centre for Social Development in Africa (CSDA).

Photo: Ketut Subiyanto (Pexels)