I yesterday posted a disturbed email to a listserve called ConcernedKenyanWriters and an interesting discussion ensued that helped me to clarify my position on the question of men and boys development in society today. Because of its importance, I have unilaterally decided to publish the discussion – I won’t mention the names of the people who commented unless they give me their permission. Only the first letters of their names will be used.
Do you know wanjiru was only 24? A recent man, from a poor background and little exposure with a lot of money and fame in Nyahururu. No knowledge of how to handle both.
I’m ruminating over what the focus on girl child empowerment and the related negligence on the boy has had an impact in our contemporary socialisation – especially young men.
Case in point: was in Watamu at the school with a colleague who deals with Early Childhood Development. Girls were all called out and told to beware of boys and not to go after sugar daddies for cash. The boys were left in class peeping out of the windows. I went and spoke to the boys. Turned out 4 times a month the girls are taken out by someone to talk and they never do.
Who’s investing in mentoring our boys? how do we get good men brought up? Does anyone see a problem?
on advice and reflection, I see I am hasty in putting up other people’s thoughts without their express permission. So, I temporarily pull it down and leave only my own thoughts on the matter. continue below….
And with a rare coherence, I responded to M.
On all of the issues you raise in your discussion we agree. The interesting thing for me, though, is the fashion in which the “development society” – government, academia and non-profit alike think about areas of focus – usually in a linear way, I find…. We have noticed that as you say (and I agree) that greater effort needs to be put in supporting girls because “boys are still, generally, doing way better than girls in almost all measurable areas. Including education. And in some, not all, areas of socialisation.”
Then the whole machinery moves into action and programmes are developed for girl-child programmes and funding presents itself and foundations say that girls are an area of focus and on “the ground”, girls are pulled out of class at certain times so that their teachers can tell them to beware of the boys who would mislead them, to work hard and that they can be everything a boy can be. So far so good.
As this goes on, and this is what I mean by “girl child empowerment and the related negligence on the boy…”, the boys are left to their own devices and no one tells them that the girl is to be respected, that the way to be a good man is to be a gentleman, and no one overtly acknowledges that the boy-child is part of the eco-system that enables and empowers the girl child and that investment also in the boy-child at the same time as, and not instead of, the girl-child will result in less rape (social and physical), less “misled girls”, less battered wives, more access for women in boys clubs at work etc….
In the last 20 years at least, M
, since we acknowledged the girl-child, the boy child has been marginalised. Now, as to the reasons why the boy-child still does better in school and sometimes in socialisation, I don’t feel qualified to speak. But this video
by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook might start to speak to some of them.
Don’t go there? I am there.
Now, What am I saying?
Simplistically, I agree and advocate for the empowerment and enable-ment of the girl-child to strengthen their position in society. I ALSO advocate that we consider that the boy-child is a part of the eco-system that would strengthen the girl and woman’s position in society (from school to home to the workplace) and that the focus on empowering the boy and socialising the boy to be a good man HAS A DIRECT BENEFIT to the woman’s empowerment. I want to see more of these sort of things too
I hope I communicate. And this conversation is going to be published on my blog
because it is ever so valuable.
11 thoughts on “Samuel Wanjiru… & Boys.”
While I agree with you that the boy child is being neglected by these 'development' agendas (in fact I have written about the problem), I have to say I am tremendously disturbed by the implied idea that it is the job of NGOs to raise our kids. Where on earth are the male role models who are supposed to be in these young boys' and girls' lives? Where are the fathers, uncles, grandfathers and older brothers? Because, ideally, these are the people supposed to be providing guidance to our young kids. They need to stand up and be counted.
Once again, you are right on the money with this one. I dare say this is one of those things that modernisation and westernization has robbed us of. Most African traditions had very elaborate and well-defined systems of mentoring and educating youngsters to coach them for adulthood. This may be one of the reasons there were fewer social ills in years past.
For starters I'd suggest we drop the tags "girl-child" and "boy-child" because this almost automatically puts the 2 groups in competition – to your point "investment also in the boy-child at the same time as, and not instead of, the girl-child". Let's look at it as developing our youth and within that obviously have clear programs /methods to deal with specific gender issues. It may come across as a cosmetic shift but I believe it would help us go a long way in ensuring so single group is neglected in the process.
I trust that you are aware of Pst. Simon Mbevi's initiative on Boys-toMen which is specifically addressing the boy/young mans development into a responsible adult. There's also another group of led by some Central Kenya pastors that focusses on addressing men (adults) to get them to fix some of these issues that were not addressed in their upbringing. This one was formed to give solutions to the alcoholism problem especially in Central Kenya which also contributed heavily to the creation of the Mututho law.
These initiatives need to get more visibility and support in order for their impact to be felt. It needs to be felt soon.
1) Not all of us are sold on the legitimacy of feminism. There are many like me who believe it is NOT settled knowledge and is still open to interrogation
2) Why does any serious attempt to redress currently fashionable male image as a lazy, unintelligent brute by the likes of Alkags, Adam magazine and others always end up as an exercise in self-deprecation? If we want to hear of how useless we are we have the experts (feminists) to tell us, we dont need our fellow men joining that bandwagon
3) Concerning Wanjiru, most studies on the matter show that sudden wealth results in unhappiness more often than happiness. In the UK half of lottery winners are depressed within 3 years of winning
As a head teacher of that miserably rare beast, a ‘mixed gender’ or co-ed boarding school in Kenya, I wholeheartedly support efforts to improve the lot of girls. This is my first statement. In fact, I believe that we need many more co-ed schools across the country, responsibly run, so that boys and girls can socialize and not appear to each other as different species when university or the world of work strikes. It seems that our Kenyan education system is very good at socializing (indoctrinating) a simplistic obedience to ‘God’ and the like during school days, but is appalling at allowing very real young men and women get to know and respect each other. For me, such gender understanding doesn’t come – and possibly this is where I agree with you slightly – from educating girls about this and that in separate girls’ schools and boys in this at separate boys’ schools. We need to be less worried – and many of our parents seem paranoid about it – about mixing boys and girls at schools.
‘The education and empowerment of the girl child’ sounds like NGO-speak nonsense, and is easy to dismiss as such. But there’s no doubt that the very visible patriarchy that exists in Kenya discriminates against women – and one way to stop that discrimination is by working with girls at school level. I don’t think that this is an unfair ‘positive discrimination’ or favouritism, as some men suggest; neither do I feel that it’s anything like a ‘revenge’, a retribution against men, Kenyan or otherwise – after all, such programmes occur now all over the world. I simply think that it’s a removal of a ceiling (at school level) that needn’t have existed anyway, and a alteration in our old-chestnut beliefs as a society that women do this and men do that. For me, this has to start with the girl, who must know what she may do, which is everything a boy may do – if you truly convince a girl that she can do Physics, say, then you’ve educated her in her rights. Making boys realise that girls may do what they want is important, of course, for a possible shift in attitudes, but it’s for the girl (woman) to decide what to do for herself, and not for the boy (man) to ‘give permission’, as it were.
On Physics – and Maths and other ‘boy’ subjects – it’s quite clear that since as a staff we made a conscious effort to change parents’ and pupils’ (and teachers’) attitudes, girls have done remarkably well in these subjects, equally the performance of the boys, who used to dominate both in terms of numbers and final attainment. This is not due to a disproportionate focus on the girls (it’s not as if we’ve stopped teaching the boys!), but rather, we conclude, because the ceiling has simply been removed and girls have been able to prove what they were capable of and denied all along. Important to me is that we don’t quite phrase girls’ need to succeed as a ‘competition’ between girls and boys – that sort of poo reinforces gender divisions, I feel. That said, we do have separate meetings for girls and boys on social matters, as well as many regular joint meetings. I do feel it’s right for our girls and boys to get certain information, together, that parents in Kenya simply don’t provide their children – equally, it’s important for parents to know what a school does, so the school doesn’t become a law unto itself. T
All this sasaid, I feel that certain approaches to ‘the girl child’ really are cynical, or even if well-intentioned can be part of that slightly patronizing approach to our Kenyan children that sees them as ‘only victims’. I’d estimate that about once every term I get an unannounced visit from someone who wants to rescue our girls. Then they seem shocked and a little disappointed that our girls know this, do this, appreciate this – occasionally, I feel that they’d like our school’s girls to be slightly more oppressed, just so that they might ‘save’ them. Still, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t very real and very pressing inequalities that require very real and lasting change.
Boys, however, should not be left out of the equation, and I don’t think they are, substantially. Certainly, they’re not being taught ‘less’, here or anywhere else. If, however, there are too many ‘Girls to the left for a serious talk, and boys stay in the classroom to kick about’ things going on in schools, that’d be wrong, but I’ve not seen it. What I have seen elsewhere is girls getting what appear to be genuinely wise talks from women teachers and boys getting rather ‘all blokes together’ talks, which possibly undermines everything: they end up relating worse to the girls; they end up growing into a changed world where they exist merely as a dysfunctional rump. For this reason, the boys need talks, too, but on how gender roles have changed and continue to change – it’s not as if this means that boys are being educated in how to fit into a girls’ world. Nothing of the sort. It’s a case of boys and girls learning, together, how to get along, together, in a society that treats them both with respect. I think that this works with ‘men’, too. Frankly, growing into such a world is something of a liberation for men, too, who also no longer have to shoe-horn themselves into preformed gender roles. And it’s not as if the talks girls are getting are those that my wife got at school from the nuns, that all boys and men are to be treated with the utmost distrust (although, in my case, they might have been right); rather, as society increasingly interacts, what’s being taught is not separatism (although this remains tricky to avoid with single-sex schools) but conviviality, getting along and making choices, boy or girl.
That Wanjiru was wobbly with his cash and his willy-mutunga seems undeniable. I don’t think that it can be put down, however, to the fact that girls are getting overly ‘empowered’, or unequally empowered. Possibly, his genuinely sad death (although, we’ve all guffawed at the ridiculous of it as well as sighed at the tragedy) is a sign that we all need to participate in better gender relations. For an old lefty like me, there are equally important economic factors at play here, but that’s perhaps for another post…
Certainly, though, the future of gender relations in any society lies with more than one separate group, yes, almost by definition.
Stephen, I enjoyed reading your article above … you have a very spot-on understanding of the issues … I loved when you said how disappointed the NGO guys were that there was nobody to rescue 🙂 … that might be the other main problem we are getting ourselves into, accepting funding to solve issues that might not be there then going round trying to force people into the envisioned problems box so as to justify the NGO's existence and continued funding.
Turning out good citizens is the job of the parents.Unfortunately Govt has set parents free from Parental Guidance /responsibility for their offspring from age 18…with NO Govt safety-nets in place.
Years ago it was reported that 50% of school going children were from One Parent Families. A couple of weeks ago it was reported that majority of young men in remand were from One Parent Families ( No fathers at home) It was their common denominator.
AG Njonjo abolished the Affiliation Act which required fathers support children born outside marriage ….thus setting men free to fertilize the nation willy nilly and with no threat to their pocket.So they did!! (I consider that move was a crime on the nation!!) Heeeh! Men Ruled…now look where we are at! Little boys and girls turned out on the street to beg for desperate mums….and sexually active at 10 years old !!…in a field of HIV/AIDS.
Watch K24 Capital Talk…Jeff Koinange interview with Dr Frank Njenga …17thMay2011…(it should be on UTube soon, hopefully)…about this same topic you have raised…and I believe the same subject will be pursued all this week.
Sammy Kamau Wanjiru…"A victim of his own success " the Standard said.
Mmmmm! Really !! A Kenya Champion dead at 24. !!
And Dr Frank Njenga says that there will be hullabaloo for one week…then we'll forget because all that matters in the minds of politicians is 2012 elections. This is our uncaring pattern which repeats it's-self over and over again.
So Al Kags…thinking youmg men like yourself…what will you do about guiding our energetic 18yr old youths to a sensible future? Youth clubs/ community centers in every village …could be built by the youth…work out a "food for work"programme maybe…
The 'boy-child' debate is being dragged too long with out action. There is no conspiracy theory here, it is simple and straight forward. I thought that the looming crisis is being acknowledged when Pastor Simon Mbevi, Amani Maranga and others started the Boys to Men program.
So who do you want to talk to the boys? Their mothers? To mentor them? Men please wake up, we are not talking about a science here. Get together, in your investment groups, whatever groups, as an individual, volunteer to talk to these boys. Be the role model, be the positive influencer.
The strides made by the girls and women in our society came after the acceptance of a situation and the realisation that the situation could be dealt with. You may call them 'feminists' but they did a great job.
Can the real men please stand up?
The older generation of men are the ones I would apportion much blame…They have let the young generation to grow up in an uncharted territory… This has led to situation where we have a generation of women who are trapped in bodies of men…This is a crisis because the men are then expected to be real men who can handle all the complex situations the way their fathers would have handled
If you cannot control events, events will control you.
The story on or about Wanjiru is disturbing to all and sundry.Its about the neglected boy child where empasis is made on the girl child protection with the Boy child seen as a prey to her,yet the boy is supposed to grow being strong and tough.
Is there a formal session to explain what the strength and toughness is about! In traditional African society ( case of kisii),a set of young men is initiated to manhood and among other issues,the boys 2 men are "trained" or counselled that;-
1).They are the soldiers of the community and can go for war with other communities and in particular going to raid and or "return" their raided / stollen cows.
2).That u are now grown ups and need not joke with girls around – go for real women for marriiage from other communities – this was intended to keep incest at bay.
3).Sense of belonging and
togetherness for the good of the community as brothers – here,an agemate could "help" his brother to sire children incase of impotance – it was a real secret that gets known at old age ( with limited people).Secrets were shared to the bedroom and so non suffered stress.
4).Investment was done as a team particularly in acquiring land,stealing/raiding of cows to pay dowry. The Case of Wanjiru is quite disturbing not only to u but to a number of people. The Problem here could be the neglect of the boy child who hails from a poor background and struck high at one.His money just dropped that even real men of investment can only see themselves as mere shadows – Wanjiru never grew with what he made and owned,he struck the same,of course by sweat.
I want to blame the following SITUATIONS;-
a) Our education system focuses on making it through education and securing employment – there is little or non on life skills – the reason for the large unemployment everywhere.
b).Lack of mentors and genuine friends.Wanjiru became a celebrity and had non to copy.His friends and society adored him that any genuine and true advise on his negativity could appear ill fated and hence cannot secure any benefit "handouts".And so Wanjiru was a heroe without limits. Wanjiru was a young man who became an "adult" abruptly with decisions to make.
c).His mother "could not let go" to a wife – as prescribed by the Bible " aman shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife".
d) Wanjiru "lacked agemates" – these are the categories of his age who have made it big like him.He was just a lone,perhaps wuith the whole world as audience courtesy of the media.
d). Chips Funga – Warembo wengi walipatikana kunyonya,a serious trend today and given that ,Wanjiru could not control himself.
Pole to the family,friends and sports fratanity and the whole country.
let look at South Africa as a case study( i live and work in SA) where the boy/man is no were to be seen in the real world. right from the classroom to the work environment men are kept in the background.the real workers are women.
The family unit is non existent( blame history and a slow to wake up population).
The situation on the ground and i quote real examples within my view. in a junior primary school class of 30, 20 are girls but in the same class only three kids have their biological fathers at home, 2 more have a step father the rest ie 25! have their single mother as their mentor.
the effect to the boy child is visible in the degeneration of young men and the alienation of marriage as a basis for an upright society. what happens is that men cease to be fathers and do not seek to be responsible, this is followed by common social ills which in S African case has resulted to very high levels of crime as young men seek to assert themselves in a society that seems not to see them.
the average S African can not show you his/her father..an African society i struggle to associate with Africanism.
if we in Kenya are not more careful we will find ourselves in a similar situation very soon.
The Boy child is neglected by proponents of seeing the girl child as a pray to boys.
The boy is supposed to grow tough,yet limits are not put in place on how far to be tough while the girl is supposed to be docile.
The emanicipation of women is viewd from the negative side – wanting to out do men yet the same women wants men to be men – there is no give and take,its to give by men and nothing.
A real problem comes where a boy sacredly ulurated on birth matures to a man and real problems begin on ownership;-
A mother refuses to let go as sisters perhaps due to the family bond yet here comes in a wife who wants to make a family unit as prescribed in the Bible " A man shall leave his father and mother and cling unto his wife".
Now friends,on leaning towards the wife,the mother and sisters complains that their son is under control of the wife and controlls benefits to no avail that were initially accessed and enjoyed by all and sundry.
If the man leans to the mother and sister,the wife wonders as to why the man didnt even marry either of them ( or both) and sees herself with no role to play.
I think there was no " break away" by Wanjiru from the mother to the wife.
The abrupt ladder from poverty to a millionare without skills of investment growth in addition to adoration by relatives and friends who wanted to make easy money " handouts" created more congestion to Wanjiru – i believe non of the friends and "mentors" could afford to tell him a bitter truth on or about any issue that is negative on or about him.Mentorship is wanting in our society.