MenCare Switzerland launched in Neuchâtel with a photography exhibition showcasing images of fathers looking after their children, reported Swiss media including La Tribune de Genève.
In its initial phase since 2015, MenCare is part of a global fatherhood campaign to promote men's involvement as equal carers for their children.
It is run in Switzerland by Männer.ch, an umbrella organization for men's and father's groups which advocates for gender equality.
The campaign is “about making people aware that men are also caregivers in a broad sense and that they can get involved not only in their professional work but also in unpaid private and family life”, Gilles Crettenand, the campaign's coordinator in French-speaking Switzerland, told broadcaster RTS.
From 2018 MenCare Switzerland will run two five-year programmes aiming to promote men's involvement in their children's lives and the equal division of tasks related to caregiving.
“Research shows that men's active involvement in fatherhood has positive effects on the cognitive, emotional, and social development of infants and children; strengthens family relations; promotes economic opportunities for mothers; and contributes to fathers' health,” says Manner.ch on its website.
“The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child also protects the rights of children to enjoy regular contact to mother and father on a daily basis. However, in Swiss families, this right remains relegated to the status of a mere wish, at least during the workweek.”
However reconciling professional and family life remains difficult for men – as well as women – in Switzerland, Crettenand told RTS. There is currently no statutory paternity leave, childcare costs are high and companies are often inflexible, he said.
The MenCare campaign will run in two phases until 2027 and aims to act on several levels: political, social, cultural and economic.
Projects will include studies, conferences, the promotion of paternity leave, preparatory courses for future fathers and awareness courses for their managers, Crettenand told the Tribune.
“Each area is interlinked, changes cannot be made individually,” he said.
The campaign aims to demonstrate not only the benefits to fathers and children, but for mothers too, who are more able to go back to paid work if their partners take on more of the caregiving at home.
Speaking about the photography exhibition that launched the campaign in Neuchâtel, Crettenand said it shows that “there are other less traditional models [for family life]. Each has its advantages and its disadvantages. The important thing is to finally have freedom of choice.”
The issue of paternity leave has been rebuffed by parliament many times in recent years, however it is likely to go to a referendum after a popular initiative earlier this year achieved the necessary number of signatures.