Fathers Matter ECD.

Impact Area:

Early Security and Safety

Year of Investment and Stage:

2021-2023 | VPM 2 | Developing and testing to validate problem solution fit

Current Stage

Developing and testing to validate problem solution fit

Investment Amount:

R767 000

Financial Instrument:




Fathers Matter ECD is one of Heartline’s projects that support the positive role of men in the lives of young children. Through Fathers Matter ECD, a toolkit was developed to support early learning practitioners in increasing father* involvement at their learning centres.  The toolkit includes resources such as animations and written material with effective strategies that are tailored to facilitate increased fatherly involvement in children’s early learning.    

*Fathers include social fathers – an adult male who plays a fatherly role to a young child. It could be a stepfather, uncle, grandfather, male family friend, big brother, male neighbourhood leader and others who are not the child’s biological father.

The Problem

Research shows that children who grow up without the active positive presence of one or more men in their lives puts them at risk of being victims or perpetrators of violence, mental illness, substance abuse, teenage pregnancy and poor educational and economic outcomes. In South Africa, about 65% of children don’t have someone who plays a father role in their lives. If a father is positively involved in the first years of a child’s life, they are more likely to be present thereafter.

Heartlines’ research showed that there is a general knowledge gap regarding both the importance of the role played by fathers and how to involve them in the lives of children. These are some of the reasons why ECD practitioners have low engagement with fathers of the children at their centres. As part of our Fatherhood Campaign, we were thus looking for solutions to provide ECD practitioners with resources and techniques needed to boost fathers’ participation at early learning centres.

The Innovation

Fathers Matter ECD aims to increase father participation during the early lives of children by making  early learning programmes “father-friendly”  By giving ECD practitioners and operators insight into the importance of positive father involvement and providing them with tips on how to attract fathers to centre activities and engagement, the ECD centre can serve as a connection point between fathers and their young children. To reach the practitioners, Fathers Matter ECD partners with organisations working in the ECD space and provides them with resources, including the toolkit so that they can equip practitioners to encourage father participation in early learning. The partner organisations use the toolkit in training sessions with ECD practitioners directly or with other ECD resource and training organisations.

Organisations who would like to obtain the toolkit can do so by filling out a form on the Fathers Matter website. Thereafter, they will receive training to guide them on how to use the toolkit to achieve the desired outcome.

The resources in the toolkit are shareable through email and WhatsApp, and printed copies of written material can be made available for trainers.

Why We Invested

Equipping early learning practitioners with necessary skills, resources and tools is highly beneficial in creating enabling environments where young children can create stable, supportive relationships with caring adults. And, involving fathers into the early learning process is even more advantageous for the children’s growth and development.

We invested in Fathers Matter ECD because of their work in advocating for positive father engagement at another level. Our initial investment in the development of the toolkit content would be able to scale beyond our involvement through partner platforms.as part of the long-term broader Fathers Matter and Heartlines communities. Further, by creating buy-in from other ECD sector partners, the project has a potential to self-sustain in the long-term.

The Project Team

Heartlines is a social and behaviour change organisation that works to equip communities and individuals with the knowledge and tools to live lives that are based on positive values. Since 2006, Heartlines has helped many people change the way they view their world and how they interact in it. The organisation harnesses the power of stories by using movies, books, guides, audios and websites to encourage conversations around values and help people make the shift to living them out.

Fathers Matter ECD is an initiative of Heartlines, in partnership with Grow Educare and the Centre for Early Childhood Development (CECD).

Grow Educare is an NPO focused on empowering and connecting ECD businesses with the skills, support and resources they need to provide quality early learning for every child.

CECD is an NPO dedicated to ensuring quality early childhood development experiences for children. They run a range of programmes that promote the holistic development of young children – from infrastructure upgrades and equipment to training workshops, home visits and education workshops for caregivers.