Is the Kenyan Boy Child Excluded in the Gender Equality Agenda?
Over the recent past I have been doing a small research on the boy child challenge in the country. Every time I have participated in any program that involves children, I take a keen observation to study the differences in the young girls and boys’ presentations as a way of trying to find where discrepancies arise in the equality cycle.
I have been able to observe that girls, from a young age, have a greater confidence than the boys. Here in Nairobi for example, young girls are quite outspoken than their boy counterparts of the same age especially when it comes to presentations involving both genders. This has translated into the work environment both in the formal and informal sector. Women have really grown in confidence and can stand in the way of men. Surprisingly enough, they sometimes work better than men.
It is usual to find female touts in our public transport sector as well as drivers. The good thing about this change of guard is the stamina with these female cream. The female touts and drivers are mostly polite as well as stern when on duty. You can’t mishandle them with the old chauvinistic mindset that they are the weaker sex and cannot stand to face you. You could be wrong.
Women are nowadays the force of society and there are as many of them in the corporate world as their male counterparts. All this has been due to increased efforts geared towards women empowerment.
Women empowerment has really taken the center stage in Kenya from the turn of the 21st century. This was a few years after the fourth conference on the status of women held in Beijing in the year 1995 which was organized to strategize measures to be put in place to ensure equal access and full participation of women in governance and inclusion in major decision making. The main aim of the increased women participation in economic and political sectors as lobbied for by the conference was to help attain transparency as well as accountable governance for sustainable development.
For this reasons, we have seen a recent increase in the number of women elected to political positions and in major public sector appointments. The constitution nowadays demands that one third of all public appointments be specifically set aside for women. Discrimination against women has declined over the recent past for that matter. And this has raised concerns that it is done so at the expense of the boy child who is being slowly dragged into the pit of the forgotten ones.
In a 2015 report by the National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) on the status of the boy child in Kenya, I noted a claim made by one of the respondents from Embu over boy child discrimination. The respondent observed that all agencies have concentrated on the girl child to a level of making the boy child an “Avocado.” His/her concerns were that some of the boys have to be made to leave schooling at the expense of the girl child education. Once the girl child is educated, she then gets married by outsiders due to the simple fact that there are no learned boys to marry the educated girls from those villages and communities. This is quite poignant.
In lieu of the above, I think absentee fatherhood is becoming a major challenge overlooked in the boy child discrimination scenario. I mean both the girls and boys need to learn from their parents. Whereas the girls spend more time on average with their mothers, boys on the other hand are spending less and less time with their fathers which exposes them to immoral societal practices at an early age. This is in contravention to the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child that demands that family and parents should provide the primary serene environment for child growth. It could thus be wise if we began to encourage for proper parental care as a measure of achieving the gender equality and equity agenda.
Throughout the country, I have noticed that society is at the primary level of encouraging boy child discrimination without understanding, the advent of bodaboda (Motor cycles) business is chief in this. It will surprise us that most of the motor cycles driven around by the young boys are not even theirs. Older men in society own those motor cycles and only lend them out to the young boys at a commission and hence introducing them to the snares of informal sector at an early age. The resulting effect is that those young boys get hooked to the quick cash which in turn encourages even more of them to drop out of schools.
Some months ago I happened to participate in a discussion about the role of men and women in society and I was surprised to learn how society perceives the male gender. The men are expected to start taking up responsibilities from an early age irrespective of the fact whether they are ready or not. In some communities for instance, you are expected to marry immediately after circumcision and start taking care of your young ones in the case of absentee fathers or a late parent. This means some young men end up giving up their education and personal development at the expense of their young siblings.
In other instances, men are not supposed to talk when abused at whatever level. Women have been empowered so well to a level where the smallest assaults are persecuted in courts which is a huge development in the gender justice affairs. However, the societal thought that men are to persevere amid suffering has made some of the men fear to speak up when they perceive injustice being committed to them. This is primarily due to the fact that they may end up being ridiculed now that the patriarchal system has always placed the male gender on a better chance of inheritance, power and leadership roles since time immemorial.
Notwithstanding, times have changed a lot especially since the turn of the century and will change even further in the coming years. Both genders are as vulnerable as the other and we might completely close our eyes to the misery of the boy child simply because of some stereotypes passed on to us by the older generations which is disastrous. Now that times have changed, the greatest problem facing us is the fact that we are not changing ourselves. We need to adapt to the changing times and appreciate the reversal of roles in society.
My conclusion is that the boy child has been excluded in a way. Only that the exclusion are as a result of the greater cultural and family believes that have been passed to us by the older generation. Others are as a result of laxity in parenting and perhaps a mindset among the boy child fraternity that society has already cast lots on them. In other words they have condemned themselves even before being condemned by society itself. Sometimes society takes part in the convictions though and all we need is to empower the boy child unless our wish is to see him get lost.
We can change the narrative if we can focus on the boy child empowerment with the same energy we have focused on the girl child empowerment. Going forward we need to understand that no gender has a level ground as has been perceived before. All genders have challenges and are at risk of facing problems as any of the other especially in this age and era. Inclusivity in the gender equality and equity agenda is a must for that matter.
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