By Fred Kasirye
The family is a seemingly an easy to understand concept, it is however an overstated term by both lay people and professionals in day to day life. It could basically be referred to as a group of individuals who share a legal or genetic bond, but for many people, family means much more, and even the simple idea of genetic bonds can be more complicated than it seems.
In this unit of society, the husband and wife are bound legally together in a relationship often time born out of love compassion and commitment. Such a relationship is often time registered and known by the state. It is also true that the nature of families in a given society by any measure and standard dictate the nature /state of society - calm, rowdy, disorganised or civil.
Family is the first source of hope when the future is unknown and yet also is the last safety net when all hope is gone. COVID 19 presents the latest proof to this. International Agencies, and Governments have made the vital call to families to stay home and results show that where this call has been heeded to the infections have been low and are being better managed. Social distancing in homes has been followed to the later. Further evidence that family is a solution to many global challenges.
For probably most couples in this generation, except for the very elderly (over 90+ years), this season of the pandemic marks the longest period they have had to spend mandatorily together considering the stay home directives given by governments across the world.
The family principals (Husband and Wife) have therefore been put to the longest test of each other's patience and tolerance. But better still accountability and basic governance matters relating to a home from resource planning, identification, and allocation. Many are failing at this test and realise they just cannot subsist.
Media during this COVID 19 period is awash with stories of increasing domestic violence. The scuffles often shown are life threatening, like probably never before. This is not to suggest that there has not been domestic violence in homes before the pandemic, but rather the rate this time round is very alarming. The clergy have noted this trend of events and have often directed their summons during this period to this end. It is not yet clear why domestic violence is on a drastic rise.
Sociology as a field of study teaches us to appreciate family in reflecting on the nature, character and growth of society. These unfolding realities not only show that sociologists have a greater role to play past this pandemic to reconstruct the family as is expected to be through offering services such as counselling and guidance but also seeks the increase in relevant research relating to the challenges, influencing factors and better still what the future of the family is envisaged to look like.
Further to this, religion shall actively take up its role to strengthen the fibre that makes family by ensuring anti social undertones are minimised through preaching good social practices as embedded in the teachings. It is only then that Science and Business initiatives and programs for society will thrive from generation to generation.
Away from that, policy makers have a role in this, owing to the fact that the current answer to the pandemic is stay home. Therefore, the home should be a safe and enabling place and a family has a role to play in this.
We therefore shouldn’t take any of the unfolding events relating to the family during this COVID 19 period lightly as we could be seeing the smallest and yet most crucial unit of society being put to irrecoverable test and trial.
Healthcare, Education and Gender responsive policy, studies as well as family level initiatives and innovations should be promoted by governments all over the world. Any effort in the opposite direction is in vain and counterproductive.
Fred Kasirye, the writer, is the Dean Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences- Victoria University, Kampala
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