Supported by a Newton Mobility Fund grant

This study aims to further understand the position of young fathers in South Africa. It builds on the assumption that a consideration of fatherhood is necessary to develop a realistic understanding of how parenthood reproduces or challenges existing gender norms.

Traditionally, mainstream literature understand parenthood as motherhood, mirroring a similar trend whereby gender is a synonym for woman. However, gender norms appear to be shifting in South Africa, as suggested for example, by the rise of female employment and female-headed households. Focusing on young fatherhood is thus a lens through which we can, not only ascertain how individuals understand the social and cultural norms that define their options, but also understand how they contribute to redefining and changing such norms. An emphasis on building an international community revolving around the University of Portsmouth (UK) and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa) is key to maximising the potential impact of this study.

This project is innovative in that it goes against mainstream literature: there are young men who are involved in parenthood, and they use the experience to push their - and others' - understanding of masculinity. We want to know more about them - in South Africa and beyond.

- Francesca Salvi, University of Portsmouth

The aim of this exploratory study is to illuminate specific constructivist and postcolonial theorisations of gender by giving voice to young people. The objectives are:

  1. To review current and recent literature from sub-Saharan and Southern Africa on the construction of gender in relation to masculinity and parenthood: How does current literature construct gender in relation to masculinity?
  2. To give voice to young fathers in order to illuminate theoretical positions identified by the literature with first hand recounts: How do young fathers use parenthood to construct their identities?
  3. To map how individual narratives may both embrace and diverge from existing normative frameworks in order to better identify the development of alternative forms of masculinity: How do young fathers navigate the available discourses in the performance of their identities?
  4. To strengthen research capacity by:

1.Creating networking events open to academics and practitioners

2.Developing training workshop for postgraduate students, ECRs and practitioners

3.Producing a methodology that can be replicated

The study starts on the 1 April 2018 and runs through to March 2019.


One of the aims of this study is to build an international network around notions of young fatherhood and masculinity. With this in mind, two events are being organised:


The Principal Investigator for this study is Prof Deevia Bhana (University of KwaZulu-Natal), the Co-Investigator is Dr Francesca Salvi (University of Portsmouth).

The Newton Mobility Fund

Newton Mobility Grants provide support for international researchers based in a country covered by the Newton Fund to establish and develop collaboration with UK researchers around a specific jointly defined research project. These are one-year awards particularly suited to initiate new collaborative partnerships, between scholars who have not previously worked together, or new initiatives between scholars who have collaborated in the past.

The grants intend to strengthen the research capacity/capability of, and contribute to promoting economic development and social welfare in, the overseas country. The awards will also initiate the development of longer-term links between the overseas and UK researchers.

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