So, now we have a report published by the National Gender and Equality Commission on the recent outpouring of grief for the boy-child, who some have sensationally claimed is under siege. The commission “conducted an assessment in eight counties in Kenya to find out if emerging perceptions on the exclusions of the boy child in the gender equality agenda are valid, and to identify the key drivers of this exclusion”.
Funny how a notorious blogger can start a boy-child movement on the premise that girls should be held responsible for the inability of boys to excel. And even funnier how a government agency responded by carrying out a multi-county survey to determine whether the privilege that has been enjoyed by boys and men for millennia is under threat. Meanwhile, we’re still waiting on Uhuru Kenyatta’s multi-agency dream team to solve Kenya’s age-old corruption puzzle. Go figure.
But let’s get back to saving the boy-child. Here’s what the commission found.
It found that in those eight counties: Kiambu, Kakamega, Kisumu, Embu, Garissa, Kericho, Mombasa and Kilifi, the boy-child is perceived to be lagging behind the girl-child in the gender equality agenda.
To quote the report, “majority of the respondents expressed fear that if there are no interventions, the boy-child will be left behind, especially in education since there has been over-emphasis on the education of the girl-child”.
Wow. Who would have ever thought that giving girls an education was too much of a priority? In an age where girls are still being FGM’d by their grandmothers, raped by their brothers, and then married off by their fathers, you would think that the term ‘over-emphasis’ would never be used to describe girl-specific interventions. And yet here we are.
The truth is that girls are still under siege. They have been since the beginning of time. The difference between girls and boys is that rather than sit around crying about it, girls have taken every opportunity to make something good out of a bad situation.
So, if you really think about it, what we have today is a man-child in crisis, not a boy-child under siege. See, for the most part, women are the primary caregivers when it comes to raising children. Even in two-parent homes, the core responsibility to raise the kids very often falls on the mother. Women (and girls) are feeding, cleaning, and watching over children far much more than men, and this includes nannies and domestic workers.
Men will typically step in for the big ticket events like mentoring their sons just in time for the circumcision season, settling large bills, or tracking down the boys who made their girls pregnant. Beyond that mothers are raising the world. And like many things in life, this is both a blessing and a challenge. We are the very same women who are raising the men who now believe that we have favoured our girls at their expense.
The truth is, however, that we molly coddle our boys. We enable them into an addiction, and entitlement is their drug of choice. Boys grow up believing that they are the best, while girls grow up determined to be the best. And this is precisely why men now find themselves in a crisis.
See, I can believe that I have a PhD all day long, but if I don’t enrol for a course, my dreams are invalid. It is not enough to think you’re the best; you have to work for it. Women figured this out a long time ago, and they were only made stronger by the obstacles that the patriarchal system placed in their paths.
Women often have to navigate an obstacle course to excel, and for the most part, rather than fall back and give up, they overcome. This is what women are – overcomers.
As an overcomer, I want my daughter to excel. If I had a son, I would want him to excel too. With that being said, there’s only so much a parent can do.
At some point, children have to take what has been handed to them and make the most of it. For centuries, boys have been handed privilege and entitlement. But now when they come to the table, they sit down to a healthy dose of reality.
The reality is this: What a man can do, a woman can do just as well. That’s just the way it is. So, dear man-child, put your self-pity in your back pocket, roll up your sleeves and fight for your right to be ‘perceived’ as equal.
Ms Masiga is Peace and Security Editor, The Conversation Africa