Society has neglected the boy child
Historically, women have been marginalised in all spheres of society be in socially, economically or politically. Culture plays a central role in this process. You will find cultural rules in communities that prevent women from realising their full potential.
As laws and policies got developed, the male lens not only dominated the discourse but also crowded out women’s voices. In the political sphere, before the adoption of the 2010 Constitution, the number of women in elective politics at the national level was below 20. This was only possible after several of them were nominated. The situation only changed due to the existence of the 47 woman representatives’ seats to the National Assembly, created by the Constitution.
The adoption of affirmative action measures is constitutionally guaranteed and aimed at addressing centuries of inequality between the men and women. While some argue that affirmative action is discriminatory, it serves the ends of justice as it helps to redress inequality in society.
While the measures to address the plight of the disadvantaged in society is laudable, a crisis occurring in the country is putting a spotlight on the real interpretation of gender equality and measures to ensure it is realized in Kenya. The challenges that the boy child faces in today’s Kenya does not receive as much attention and focus as is necessary to resolve their plight.
This past week I received a video on social media. The video was by a group of primary school children. In it, they were lamenting about society’s disregard of their situation and the over-focus on the girl child.
They gave the examples of affirmative action, discourse on women’s rights, policies on sanitary towels. Two statements struck me. One is their translation of women rights focus to ask in a derided manner, does it mean than men have no rights, or have they committed ills in society.
Secondly, they referred to a statement normally made that when you educate a girl you educate an entire society to imply that the same is not true of educating the boy child.
The above statements may understate the real reason for focus on the girl child. As already recognised, for a gender that has had the deck stuck against them, focus on them is necessary.
Despite the above reality, the boys in the above referenced video are making a point that should concern the country. 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.
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.
As a country we must recognise 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. It is imperative that the complaints those young boys raised in the video, though from a comical perspective, be taken more seriously and targeted measures be designed to address the numerous challenges that young boys face as they grow up.
Doing this should not mean ignoring girls. 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.
To do so we must recognise that boys are suffering just like girls. The challenges may be different, but the challenges exist. Consequently, we must start discussing and identifying measures to address their plight and put resources and efforts to deal with these challenges.