‘Papa do my hair’ — New Heartlines short film urges dads to show up and style up

Screenshot from the 5.35 minutes film which can be viewed here

“I trust daddy, but not when it comes to hair. He has no idea how hair works,” says Maisha Mashua matter-of-factly. “We’ll aim to change that,” counters Mahlatse Mashua, the dad in question. 

A hair salon is usually off-limits to men. And when it comes to hair day in most homes, fathers typically get the day off to hang out with the gents or watch their favourite sports teams compete. A few dads have decided it’s time to break that stereotype and show up for their girls – and learn how to style up. 

At the helm of this is Mahlatse Mashua, dad to three girls and Heartlines Fathers Matter Ambassador. The idea stemmed from an occasion when Mashua’s wife was away while he remained at home to care for his daughters. One morning his 9-year-old daughter came to him and said, “Daddy, please do my hair” and he realised he didn’t have a clue what to do. From there came the idea for Papa do my hair.

“Sometimes as fathers we tend to be encouraged to do the bare minimum. That’s the old story, though,” says Mashua. “The new story would be that we consider fathering a much bigger category, not just ‘I’m the helper’. It opens up amazing opportunities to play an important role in your baby’s life.”

Mashua and a few friends recently set up a salon-for-the-day at his home in Vredehoek, Cape Town. They’ve invited a professional stylist to teach them some essential hair basics, such as knowing the difference between braids, an upstyle, an afro and twists. And also how to wash and care for their daughter’s hair. 

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The issue of hair among girls often represents and relates to other issues: identity, their concept of beauty, bullying, stereotypes, values, role models and self-esteem.  

This ‘Papa do my hair’ initiative is a fun and entertaining way to engage dads in conversations about why fathers matter in their children’s lives, even in areas that are traditionally “mom roles”. And at the same time, through learning more about their child’s hair, dads will learn a valuable skill.  

“You are not just helping; this is what you do. This is your responsibility. It’s a manly thing,” adds Mashua. 

The topic of fatherhood is an emotive one for many South Africans. Studies show that there are numerous benefits – for children, mothers and fathers themselves – when fathers are positively involved in the life of a child. Positive father involvement has also proven to cause a decline in gender-based violence, substance abuse, violence and a number of health and psychological risks posed to children. While the narrative is already shifting, much remains to be done. 

Heartlines wants to inspire and encourage men – and society at large – to consider just how important it is for fathers to be a positive influence in children’s lives. Through their six Fathers Matter films, supporting resources and the broader campaign, they aim to remind us of this. 

If this inspired you, here are some thoughts to get you started:

  • Be deliberate. Affirm your daughter and embrace the beauty and complexity of all that she is.
  • Be practical. Look for opportunities to demonstrate love and set a positive example of empathy and involvement.
  • Be willing to learn. Get out of your comfort zone and master new skills. Don’t let preconceived ideas about men’s traditional roles stop you from being creative in exploring ways to build deeper connections.
  • Be in community. Share your experience with other fathers so that you can encourage, support and challenge one another.

    Watch Papa do my hair film here.

Anyone who would like to be involved in reshaping the narrative about South African fathers can visit the Fathers Matter website for more information: www.fathersmatter.org.za.

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