When Lerato Mabuso found out she was pregnant, she was over the moon to be a mother. But little did she know it would be a dreadful experience.
Lerato knew her child would stand out in her family as the father of her child is Ethiopian. Years later, her son became a victim of hate speech and xenophobia from society and her family, especially as she separated from the baby daddy.
Pakiso Ramothobi, a family counsellor at The Family Life Centre, says if you have a child with a man who is not South African, it is important to blend your traditions with that of the father of your child so that your child knows their true identity.
Pakiso says the most important part about having a child with a foreign man is knowing his origins.
"It is important to be aware of all aspects of a person before you have a child with them. It is important to find out about their place of origin, background, family history, views on parenting and attitude towards commitment and responsibilities, says Pakiso."
"Its also important to get a clear insight into their attitude towards their role as a parent. This is going to be your child's family and heritage.
"Pakiso adds that building a relationship with the father's family will help your child know their identity."
It is important for a continuous relationship, even if the father has passed on. Every child needs to know their heritage and where they come from. This is an important part of their identity," she says.
"It is important to be aware of all aspects of a person before you have a child with them". Pakiso Ramothobi – Family counsellor
BLENDING CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS
Trying to blend your customs and that of the father of your child can be challenging. Lerato adds that her family won’t acknowledge her son as their own until his father performs a traditional ritual to introduce him to his ancestors.
"Every time my child gets sick, my family always insists that the child needs to be protected by his ancestors and the father has to slaughter a sheep for our ancestors to protect my child. But my baby daddy feels that it is not necessary because he doesn't believe in this," says Lerato.
Pakiso adds that you and the father of your child should have a firm understanding of each other's customs and why certain things need to be done in a particular way.
"Talk openly about the importance of your values and customs. You should also identify similarities and differences between his traditions and yours in order to learn to accept things which are not familiar to you," explains Pakiso.
DEALING WITH SOCIETY
Lerato says from day one, people have been mean towards her and her son because the father of her child is not from South Africa.
"The people in my community think very little of me and my child. They even go as far as calling my child hurtful names. Everywhere I go, I have to explain why my child looks different and has a name of Ethiopian roots. It's really draining and stressful. We are treated like we are aliens," explains Lerato.
Pakiso agrees that people can be harsh towards you and your child if the father is not of South African origins. "Some people hate a particular individual for no reason or because they don't understand them, like if you look different or act differently than what society wants. People don't like something they are not familiar with," she says.
"You can't please everyone and you certainly can't expect everyone to love you. There are people who find comfort in putting others down. Xenophobia means fear of others. However, in South Africa it has come to mean hatred of others, a peculiar racism against immigrants from other African countries. Educate your child on his heritage and xenophobia so he knows his identity and won't be bothered by what people call him.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS
Thabo Mokgola, Department of Home Affairs' media liaison officer, explains that in order for your child to be able to travel outside the country, he or she would need an unabridged birth certificate. The birth certificate specifies the parents' details, including ID numbers, full names, city of birth and citizenship.
"If one parent is an illegal immigrant, it will make things difficult when the child has to travel outside of South African without the consent of both parents." If the child is traveling with one parent, the following documentation must be presented at the time of travelling:
– An unabridged birth certificate.
– A passport.
– A court order (in the case of a custody agreement) or death certificate.
– An affidavit confirming that the parent can travel alone with the child.