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THE BOY CHILD

Kenyans have created a very difficult environment for the boy child to grow and develop in. As a country we must recognize that ensuring gender equality requires that policies and administrative action deal with challenges facing both sexes. To ignore one category of gender is not exacerbating the gender divide as opposed to promoting equity.  Targeted measures to be designed to address the numerous challenges that young boys face as they grow up.

If we continue ignoring the challenges facing boys, we will soon be in a situation we were with girls several years ago. The situation that led to the emergence of the feminist movement to push for recognition and protection of the rights of girls and women.

Boys and girls each have unique challenges — societal, culturalisation and biological, among others. Boys are facing many challenges in society. Their numbers in education system will reveal the declining numbers. The challenge of drug abuse threatens this group of boys. Many cases of defilement against a male or a boy are not reported, for instance, but the crime is taking place. Boys are defiled nowadays and they don’t report as the matters are resolved within the community by elders. The boy child then soon succumbs to trauma due to this negligence.

When it comes to communities’ example Maasai, Luhya, Kikuyu, Kamba, Kisii, Luo and many other communities, it believes that a man should keep his issues to himself. If he speaks about it to his mother or sisters or to anybody, his peers will perceive him as weak.

For instance, the boy child is not supposed to cry even when in great pain since this is seen as a sign of weakness and subjects one to ridicule from the society. A parent in African society is always heard telling the boy; “don’t cry like a girl, you are a man.”

Women more often have suicidal thoughts; the men die by suicide more often. This is because with the close attention given to the girl child, it is easier to notice signs of depression among females and one is able to offer guidance and counseling to them, which will eventually wipe the suicidal thoughts away.

If I was to conduct a survey on the rate of domestic violence in Kenya, I am quite sure that the results will not be good. It is not unusual to hear stories of a man who butchered his whole family or killed his wife because of small family issues. As a country, we have chosen to ignore this alarming trend of violent Kenyan men who kill their spouses or kill themselves or go berserk and murder the whole family.

The explosion of the debate in recent days about the place of men in society. The place of the boy child and man in the society is changing at a frenetic pace. It is not only about the traumatic punishments meted out by women in Nyeri.

People believe that the boy child has the strength to handle challenges and hardship of life, the strength to face all menace of humanity.

A Kenyan man with psychological problems is unlikely to seek help from a professional or even talk to a colleague about what he is going through because that is a sign of weakness. We have created a situation where men just bottle up their irritations, fears, stress and even depression. Psychologists will tell you that if you are stressed up seek help; you will worsen the situation and thus leading to the number of domestic violence to rise.

It becomes headline news in media when a 15-year old girl drops out of school due to early pregnancy or marriage, yet there is no concern at all when a 10-year old boy drops out of school because of drug abuse, to herd cattle and many more.

A child is a child. Let us have interventions for both girls and boys — based on their uniqueness, differences and challenges. No child should be neglected at all. They all deserve an equal chance in life.

Today, the message is that what a boy can do, a girl can do better. Instead of working on the inherent, God-given strengths in both, the current rhetoric sets them in competition against each other.

The boy child is caught in a privilege trap. He is told he should do better because he is a man. Yet the only brand of manliness he is exposed to is associated with oppression. He hates himself for not meeting the expectations but he lacks to the tools to get out of it. He cannot complain too loudly because men do not cry. They suck it in and man up.

A man without a job or a means to earn a living has no status. The man’s secondary identity is also married to his ability to provide for a woman and by extension a family as measure of respect in society.

If we don’t educate our boys, we will end up with a community without a future. Men are leaders and if we don’t fight for the boy child, we will end up with a community with uneducated leaders and this will drag us behind in development.

Globally, boys are more likely to drop out of school. They are more likely to abuse drugs. A boy child in some countries is 20 times more likely to be imprisoned.

Joining terror gangs and terror groups such as alshabab fill the media every time an attack  is reported, some parents remain wondering how their well behaved boy came to think of joining such a dangerous group but what do you expect of him if at all you continue to concentrate on girl and keep telling them be a man and stand up for yourself, how many more of our young men do we want to lose before we realize that enough is enough and we have to stand up and protect this species of humans that is slowly degrading out of our own ignorance.

Society has of late focused on the girl child in turn is rapidly suffocating the boy child. There has been great neglect of the boy in society today. In Kenya today no news is reported when a boy is abused in any way.

The girl child is being over-educated on how to deal with the societal menace that is man, but the boy child is never told how to handle issues, except that he is a man and should take things in a manly way, not whine or wince in pain even when an over-size wench is literally sitting on him.

Men are bad, men will take advantage of you, men are hopeless creatures and will never help you this all are just but some of the pieces of “advice” we give our daughters and they grow up seeing only enemies around them.

The boy child should not be viewed as the enemy of a girl’s success. They should be accorded the respect they deserve. They need to be molded; to be respectable men in future and their place in the society should be recognized. Both boys and girls need to be educated and mentored. It will be wrong to give much attention to the girl child and forget that tomorrow will come when we will need the boys to become men.

At the rate things are going, it’s time to make deliberate attempts to empower the boy-child, because at the end of the day, we do not want our girls to marry weaklings

In Kenya, there is a growing feeling that, after many years of focusing on girls, the boys has been left behind. That has been evidenced by widespread alcoholism and increased school dropouts, leading to a re-think on whether the advancement by girls was at the expense of boys.

The Constitution of Kenya also provides that a child’s interest should be of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child a boy child and a girl child.

The government should monitor implementation of the said laws and policies, and develop localized strategies to address challenges affecting the boy child.

Unfortunately, discussions amongst gender activists sometimes pose the question as if it is only possible to lift one category by bringing down the next category.

Such an approach encourages conflicts, disagreements and disenchantment. Eventually, it leads to more gaps between the two sexes and prevents the society from realizing its full development potential. A society can only develop when it takes advantage of its diversity, in terms of gender and in terms of ethnicity.

Achieving gender equality is about disrupting the status quo — not negotiating it.” It is time to disrupt the status quo and look at children at par and not have any child superior to the other.

We need to place equal value to both male and female, in their uniqueness and differences. This will go a long way in changing perceptions about children, even at birth, and enable us to look at children exactly as that.

STORY BY LIHAVI IMELDA

Charles Oduor

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