Kelvin Kamau, a petrol station attendant in Nairobi, recalls the moment when he realised that he didn’t fit into the social order in his home. He felt that he was not needed in his home. His baby’s mother, a nurse, earned way more than him and called the shots.
“I felt that the gender norms were violated. And looking back, I tried to compensate by demeaning my ex-fiancée by cheating on her. She left, and she doesn’t need me anymore,” he says.
Another man, Alfred Omondi could not afford to have a wife. Dowry price aside, his meager earnings deterred him from settling with his girlfriend, with whom they have a daughter.
“If I can’t take care of myself sufficiently, how will I take care of a woman and a child?” asks Alfred.
According to Dr Eric M. Kioko, an anthropologist and lecturer at Kenyatta University, due to the increasing population and rising cost of living, older generations can no longer guarantee land inheritance to their male offspring.
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Instead, young men are left with a responsibility to look for their places to live, where they end up renting tiny houses and struggling for years before they finally save enough to settle permanently.
“When you bring a woman into this equation, it becomes a real challenge. Marriage is expensive, and unless we change how we organize marriage in terms of bride price and weddings, the younger generation may not afford to marry. Instead, they’ll opt for casual sexual partners, further disintegrating the social fabric,” says Dr Kioko.
Numerous studies have documented well-known risks associated with children born of single mothers, including discipline problems and lower school achievement.
“It is important to bring up children in a complete family set-up,” says Dr Kioko. “Society needs to empower the boy child just as much as they are empowering the girl-child. Push for boys to get educated. Stringent rules need to be tightened around drugs and alcohol, a menace that mostly affects the body child’s development.”
He adds: “As a result of empowerment, women can assume roles that were reserved for the men in patriarchal societies. They’re in leadership, they’re able to fend for the family and to make major decisions.”
Men and women are all victims of patriarchy. Dr. Kioko’s department’s recent research uncovered that industrious boys who show poise and dependability are not sent to school in some Kenyan communities. They are instead left to tend to livestock. School is for the feeble who show little promise of living up to be morans.
With women empowerment programmes, more girls in the same communities join school, a contributing factor to the gender disparity in universities, where women enrolment is higher than that of men.
“How then will these uneducated young men, the pillars of these communities, catch up with educated girls while they can barely read and write?” he ponders.