Today is the International Day of Families. The day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 and reflects the importance the international community attaches to families. The International Day of Families provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families and to increase knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting families.
Families—both traditional and non-traditional—are the foundation of society. Some of the most formative years of our lives are spent growing up with our families, so they should be celebrated! A parent is the the first and most important teacher in every child’s life. There’s an Indian adage in Sanskrit which goes, “Mata, Pita, Guru, Daivam”. This shows the four most important people in a person’s life – their mother, father, followed by their teacher and finally the divine or God. So the first teacher for a child is his or her mother who is responsible for giving him life and sustaining him. So the importance of family starts at birth and stays constant throughout life. As children grow into their teens and early adulthood, families can be a bedrock of support during times of change. Families meet a child’s physical and emotional needs, model good values to them, provide them with sustenance and protection, advocate for them and offer guidance in all areas of their lives.
Although families all over the world have transformed greatly over the past decades in terms of their structure and as a result of global trends and demographic changes, the United Nations still recognizes the family as the basic unit of society. This day provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families and to increase knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting them. It has inspired a series of awareness-raising events, including national family days. In many countries, this day is an opportunity to highlight different areas of interest and importance to families.
Families are both beneficiaries but most importantly the agents of development. The role of families in development was recognized by the World Summit for Social Development in its Copenhagen Declaration. The message of Copenhagen still rings true after a quarter century of development: “The goals and objectives of social development require continuous efforts to reduce and eliminate major sources of social distress and instability for the family and for society.” Then, governments pledged to “place particular focus on and give priority attention to the fight against the world-wide conditions that pose severe threats to the health, safety, peace, security and well-being of our people”.
The Copenhagen Declaration recognized that the family was the basic unit of society and acknowledged that it plays a key role in development and is entitled to receive comprehensive protection and support. Governments further recognized that the family should be strengthened, with attention to the rights, capabilities and responsibilities of its members. It is important to remind us that the Declaration also recognized that “in different cultural, political and social systems various forms of family exist”.
This year, the 25th anniversary of the World Summit for Social Development, is probably one of the most challenging times globally with the COVID-19 panademic making everything topsy-turvy. We now know that governments world over have to put into place social policies protecting the most vulnerable individuals and families. It is the families who bear the brunt of the crisis, sheltering their members from harm, caring for out of school children and at the same time continuing their work responsibilities. Families become the hub of intergenerational interactions that support us in the crisis. Under economic duress poverty deepens. In times of uncertainty stress increases often resulting in growing violence against women and children. That is why the support for vulnerable families, those who lost income, those in inadequate housing, those with young children, older persons and persons with disabilities is imperative now more than ever. So the theme this year is “Families in Development: Copenhagen & Beijing + 25”.
This year’s celebration of the International Day of Families reminds us that the goals of Copenhagen are still relevant in the rapidly changing world. The World Social Summit as well as the International Year of the Family and its follow-up processes have served as catalysts for integrating a family perspective into overall social policy making. Further advancement of family policy in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development depends on how well issues of family policy are integrated into the overall development planning at national levels. It is imperative that such policies effectively respond to the numerous challenges faced by families in a rapidly changing world now facing an unprecedented global health and social crisis.
How can you observe this day? Today, you can’t get out of the home, so since it’s a day for family, spend more time with your family and today reflect what family means to you. Family can also mean the family you choose – your friends and extended family who love and accept you no matter what.
The International Day of Families is important because it highlights the importance of family in society. A stronger family leads to a stronger community and help each member in the family lead fulfilling lives while caring for each other. Not all families look like yours, but they are also a family. This day bring that reality in focus and helps us understand that different families exist. Finally this day is an opportunity to have conversations with your own family, those serious conversations with your children and significant other which you may have been postponing.
So how will you celebrate this day? Will you have ‘that’ conversation with your family and if yes, which one will that be?