We Must Accept the Blame for the Troubled Boy Child

I was once a boy child.

I grew up in a time when having a son was considered a blessing. And after a certain age, all my short-comings and indiscretions were dismissed as “boys will be boys”. This is not to say that I wasn’t raised right. As a son, parents were never really scared of you falling prey to bad company, drugs and alcohol, or getting your heart broken by girls or contracting a life-threatening disease or fathering a child out of wedlock. These concerns were largely directed to the girl child because she was always seen as the more vulnerable one, the one that needed to be given the best possible chance to succeed. For the boy-child, it was believed that all it took was constant reminders of “be a man!” and observing the older men around to figure out how to navigate through life.

It is indeed true that the boy child in Africa for many generations has unwittingly benefitted from a patriarchal society that has prized men over women and sons over daughters. And so, the boy child used this gender imbalance as a crutch to get by in life and even prosper with very little effort compared with his female counterparts.
But that was then, now things have changed. As issues of women’s empowerment gain prominence and a wide array of policies aimed at uplifting the girl child start to bear fruit, suddenly the boy child is now emerging as the threatened one.

There are two schools of thought that appear to be emerging on the way forward.

One view widely held is that women are unfairly overburdened. As it stands, mothers, aunts, sisters, wives, females in general carry the load of empowering the girl child as well as providing support and guidance to the boy child. While men do little or nothing.
Women’s rights activists therefore believe that society should stop blaming women for the troubled boy child. Furthermore, women should no longer be considered as the custodians of traditional societal values such that when children stray and destroy their lives, blame is heaped on women failing to raise them right. Therefore the reproductive role can no longer be borne by women alone. The responsibilities of pregnancy and child rearing must be shared equally between the man and the woman, as much as possible.
Therefore, this school of thought concludes by stating that the troubled boy child dilemma should not be left to women to figure out and deal with. Men themselves should start holding the boy child’s hand the way women have long been doing with the girl child.

The second school of thought, which I happen to espouse, begins by conceding that menfolk have indeed neglected their duties to the boy child as fathers, father-figures, big brothers, cousins, uncles leaving the boy-child neglected and troubled. However, the overall responsibility of ensuring that there is gender balance in society remains a concerted effort between both men and women, especially those already involved in the human rights movement and within civil society.

The appeal being made in this regard is that women ought to make affirmative action to be more about gender empowerment than just women empowerment. The danger of not addressing the emerging issues surrounding the boy child is that we are slowly breeding an angry, misunderstood and marginalized generation of men which has serious social consequences. And so like my protégée Nittzsah I agree that we need to shine the spotlight on the boy child. However, dealing with the troubled boy child issue cannot be divorced from the empowerment of the girl child. The challenge to men (formerly boy children like me) is to get more involved and actively participate in the formulation and implementation of affirmative action programmes and policies geared to addressing gender disparities for the betterment of the entire society.

At a societal level, empowered men can start by mentoring younger males within the family and in the community, having meaningful discussions and talks with them about what it really means to be a man and the challenges of manhood that await them. It’s time that we, men played our part.

26 thoughts on “We Must Accept the Blame for the Troubled Boy Child

  1. Great post!
    When I talk about what I want to be in life, mentoring young girls features heavily. Even now, part of my giving back is girl focused. Why is this?
    First, I see something like this (http://www.girleffect.org/), and I feel my giving back will have a greater impact if I focus on the girl. I’m the woman I am today because my high school headmistress, another woman took a chance on me, so I sort of feel I owe womanhood something.

    The second is, I sort of resent the modern man for neglecting the boy child. I feel who, we got there first are responsible for the younger ones, and whenever I talk to my male friends about mentoring, they give me this blank look, which only changes if something to do with beer, football or gadgets is mentioned thereafter. They dismiss me for a softie and at worst say I’m wasting my time and money. A few have the grace to admit they should be doing it, but do nothing about it.

    As a woman who has a heart for the future child, it’s hard for me to mentor or empower a boy. I grew up in an all girls family, I have absolutely no idea how the male mind grows. However, if I was to find a group of men focused on empowering the boy child, I’d definitely jump in and support them all the way.
    Where are they? They’re in the pub watching football. Sorry for generalizing.

    • I dont know where they are either (not counting the non-wayward members of the clergy and all those Dr. Njengas out there). I hate to generalise but women are socialised to embrace nurturing instincts which lend themselves easily to mentoring. Sadly this is something that men will have to be taught. It is a culture that we need to start inculcating in men. You know how in States they have these Big Brother programmes organised by Civil Society to help needy, under-privileged or orphan boys? We need programmes like that here.

      • Pastor Simon Mbevi of Transform Kenya is very passionate about the boy child and mentoring men. That would be a good place to start if you guys are interested. Don’t let his title deter you (I know quite a few people who wouldn’t think of approaching a pastor) he’s a great guy.

  2. I see us holding an International Conference soon. For now, my comments:

    Honestly speaking for a good number of objective women, we would like to help the boy child. But sometimes we feel like we lack the capacity to do so. As mothers, women do their very best to raise up-right, well-mannered men. It’s something that goes beyond paying school fees for our sons. Mothers (women) impart values and maintain a level of decorum that sons can emulate. Most women/mothers won’t come home drunk, or fight with their neighbors. They won’t abandon their children for a “better” life and would rather slave or prostitute themselves to feed their children. How many old women do you find sweeping the streets of Nairobi as early as 6am just to make a living? Aren’t there men who are jobless and can sweep? How many female hawkers do you see on the streets, selling fruits and vegetables while their little children play precariously by the road side, eating off the pedestrian path where a drunkard took a piss last night? And often, men blame such women for having too many children, as though women are asexual. We know there are more single mothers than there are single fathers. And MOST single fathers are that way because their wives passed away, not because they were abandoned by a care-free wife.

    That said, the question is: After all wives/ mothers/ aunts/ grandmothers/ girlfriends have done, what MORE do men want women to do? When will men actually appreciate that women put up with so much, and they bear it all with nothing but love? Perhaps we’ve had enough. Perhaps we have too much on our plate already. Is it okay if we didn’t do any more for men? Would the boy child blame us? WHAT HAVE MEN DONE FOR THEMSELVES before they can ask us women to come to their aid – the boy child’s aid? And how will we help the boy-child when we barely understand what exactly the boy child wants? We always thought we knew what the boy child needed – love, direction, support, a father – but it seems that’s not it. WHAT IS IT THAT THE BOY CHILD NEEDS? Education? Employment? Power? Recognition? A woman? WHO HAS DENIED HIM THESE THINGS? Women? Fellow men? Or maybe the boy-child himself?

    You say that: “At a societal level, empowered men can start by mentoring younger males within the family and in the community, having meaningful discussions and talks with them about what it really means to be a man…, ”

    A good idea, but how many men really know what it is to be a man? How many fully understand their role on this earth enough to impart it to their sons? And isn’t that the problem with the boy-child? The identity-crisis? Women have had their role in life pretty much spelled out for them – be a wife, give birth, raise children, cook, clean, care, then die. Women did all that so well, but a time came when hers and her children’s basic needs -food, shelter and clothing – were not adequately met. A time when men decided that providing for their women is a favor.., and one too big, extending this attitude to his daughters and sons. So she began to fend for her children and herself, if only to survive. When she realized she could do all that and more, she assumed both male and female roles. Can you blame her really?

    • Empowered men such as myself are the ones to empower as many neglected boy children as we can. All I am trying to explain here is that there is a psychological and emotional factor that has been missing from the process of raising boys. Growing up in a society that automatically assumes that because you’re male you shouldnt be emotional or sentimental or soft-spoken or display signs of weakness or distress can have negative effects on the boy child. I know societal values cannot change overnight for both the girl-child and the boy-child but where the latter is concerned, we can help raise awareness on the importance of mentoring and counselling.

      There is no point having an empowered girl child walking around Nairobi and 4 troubled boy children descend upon her and gang-rape her. All the work done in empowering that girl-child will have been in vain.

      I hope you see what I’m talking about when I say that the focus needs to be on creating gender balance by empowering both the boy and girl child.

  3. First of all I think it is wrong to say that, and this is what am getting from the comments, women are the only ones who contributed to the empowerment of the girl child. Men are not randy, groin-first, brain-last individuals ready to abandon their offspring at a whim.
    Thing is, in any empowerment initiative some gender balance should be standard.
    On remedial matters, as @Rookie says the sooner we as men get to telling younger boys to follow a correct path and follow it ourselves the better.

    • I’m not following you. Are you suggesting that it’s wrong to say that the responsibility of addressing the issues of boy child should be shared by both men and women?

      • Basically what I am saying is that it is fallacious to say that the girl child emancipation was purely a female endeavour ie men just sat and watched…. and that gender balance is key in any societal empowerment initiative.
        On the last statement I am simply reiterating @Rookie’s point about us men, mentoring younger boys because in reality it is easier for us than our sisters to do so.. That said this a collective thing, male and female..

      • Allow me to clarify something no one said: The EMPOWERMENT (not emancipation) of the girl child was NOT purely a female endeavor. Men did pull up their sleeves and wipe the sweat off their brow for women. I’d like to think the reason the process of Female Empowerment took off in such a big way was because it was clear what women wanted – EQUALITY. The girl child wanted access to the opportunities the boy child had in his favour – education, employment, recognition, etc. This was not a farfetched concept. It was in fact a right that would come to be encapsulated in Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, after World War II

        “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration against any incitement to such discrimination.”

        Borrowing from this same idea, I believe that for society to kick start the process of empowering the boy child we must answer 2 key questions:-

        1. How has the boy child been dis-empowered?
        2. What can be done to empower (re-empower?) the boy child? What does the boy-child NEED to feel empowered?
        3. What are the expected results (both positive/negative) of this re-empowerment process?

        Until these questions are answered, we cannot start solving the problem. I believe these questions are best answered by the male folk. Question is, when will they?

  4. Here I am again… This is something I’m passionate about. Simply because like @RookieKE mentoring girls is something that I have to do. I’m where I am because of the women who were there for me. I’ll include those who were also not there because it’s part of what fires up the passion to mentor young girls.
    On men, I agree MisterNV Big Brother is needed here. There is an equivalent of sorts run by Simon Mbevi and Transform Kenya Boyz to Men. It is the closest to mentoring and teaching manhood in this country. Pastor Simon is a Pastor so essentially it might lock out others who m ay be uncomfortable joining because they subscribe to a different faith. The revolutionary thing about what he is doing is that it’s taking place in the schools, so some boys will escape.
    Question is what happens to the others? Even among the 20 something and 30 something men, it seems there are more than a few running blind… What happens to them?

  5. No one better to show a boy how to become a man than . . . a Man! Values and a sense of character can be effectively imbibed into an impressionable young’n through teaching, explaining, and better yet, demonstrating. But imparting into a kid the true nature of manhood is best done through inspiring.

    The best example of how great this works is in the life of Jesus Christ. He didn’t just tell his disciples how a good Christian should live: he embodied His teachings in his every thought and deed, and all His actions backed what he said. I see a lot of so called leaders preach by the mile but walk by the inch.

    It’s as simple as practicing what you preach—but it’s not that easily done!

  6. Pingback: Battered men: Maendeleo ya Wanaume betraying its own cause | nPita Pete

  7. Am sure the problem here lies with the generation of men behind us who were more occupied with bringing food on the table, paying school fees and not caring what’s going on with their children lives. Men who have 8- 5 jobs come home read newspaper, eat and go to sleep and this leaves no time for the father to bond with their children. A lot of men also migrated from rural to urban areas to seek jobs thus leaving the responsibility of women to take care of the family. Unlike the era of our great grand fathers where everyone was supposed to go to the farm and masculinity was shared between the father and son during the work, the modern son in the industrial age was left alone as the father went to work in the factory.
    Anyway a solution lies in having a big brother mentor ship programmes to correct this mistakes as suggested by one of the blogger.

  8. Absolutely agree with you 100%. The boy child has been completely forgotten, they lack proper role models and society is forgetting/ignoring the boy child needs. Fathers need to take up more responsibilities of raising the boy child, they need to mentor the boys. Churches and other religious institutions also need to implement programs that focus on mentoring the boy child. Boys need to feel there needs are also addressed, this will help in raising a generation with less crime, unemployment, drug/alcohol abuse and violence. Empower the boy child and we will see a decrease in all the above and maybe chivalry will reappear

  9. Way forward…all has been said. All our society does is to point fingers to the ills in its midist. Its high time that we wake up and address these issues. Two yera down the line, your views are in the air. Action is the baseline.

  10. i am convinced that we are seeing more male social challenges because of ignoring the boy child. i have taken the challenge and started the YY Ambassadors initiative to empower the youths through Talks, seminars and sports. join us right from kisumu dala

  11. I find it shameful that instead of looking for solutions for the problems bedeviling us, the women mostly are engaged in a blame game and over generalizations, blanket statements about men’s behavior. My view is that the problem needs to be addressed from the top down. meaning we need to recheck the policies we enact into law.This includes having a budget for men empowerment like the women fund, incorporating men in micro finance projects, empowering them with accounting and business skills. showing them that they are important in national development by challenging sexist slogans like “banking on women.” Mainstreaming gender equity not women agenda of equality.

    • @ sopala I love what you have written. It is indeed true that as a society we need to sop telling ‘THE MALE’ that for them to be respected they need to be brave, arrogant, “dirty” and so many other things. What we forgot is that they are human and therefore should be free to show emotions, seek advice and help where they feel lost……………….

  12. The crisis at which the boy child finds himself currently can collectively be called a global phenomena.the constant overemphasis on the girl child at the expense of the boy child in largely blamed for a society where girls have started to gain more socioeconomic dominance at the expense of boys.even education which was meant to foster national unity and promote national values,is now promoting the education of girls to be more important than that of boys making boys look like they are adversaries to be vanquished from this planet.this constant overemphasis on the girl child at the expense of the boy child could seem to be counterproductive since the marginalization of boys in the society defiles national cohesion,a situation that could result in conflict in the field of gender and many areas.

  13. The passion i have for the boychild as a mother,sister, friend, daughter, drives me to my journey to stand up for him because i believe that he has been forgotten and his plight ignored. I am a mother to both boys and girls, and i know for a fact that in our rush to protect and empower the girlchild we ended up neglecting our boys. It’s time we made a stop and evaluated our score board.eg :how much have we achieved by neglecting our sons? The boy and girl child issues are not really different. They almost face the same challenges. I speak out for the boychild i have done my research for over five years. I have written a book which i wish and hope to publish soon about the same. You can reach me via Facebook on my group support the boychild where mostly i write about issues that concern the boychild or the project am undertaking to reach out to him

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