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Father's Day: What men require for a fulfilling life in modern era

 Tony Kisaka and his daughter Alayna Kisaka in swimming at their home in Westpoint Suites, Nairobi on August 17, 2021. [Jenipher Wachie, Standard] 

Tomorrow is International Father’s Day, one of the few days in the life of the male gender that he is officially celebrated.

I have rationalised this lack of celebration to the reality that despite the great achievements women have made in social, economic and political spheres, it is still a man’s world.

Statistics of women’s presence in different arenas of leadership are still dismal. Politically, only 28 countries have been led by women, and even that only in the last two decades.

The “family photo” of the G7 leadership this week, like previous years, is reflective of this reality. It is typically 6 men and one woman. Women occupy a meagre 24 per cent of seats in parliaments and only 23 per cent of high-level corporate positions.

Closer home, we have given up on the “not more than two-thirds” gender rule in key sectors, including Parliament, where we remain below the constitutional threshold.

Since days are traditionally set aside to bring attention to an issue that requires attention, the reality of a world still overwhelmingly male may explain the lack of men’s days. That said, and while we must seek to achieve gender parity in all critical spaces, there is an evolving crisis of men that if not checked, will reach disaster proportions and gravely damage society.

The evolving crisis is exhibited by several statistics. Globally, males now die from suicide three to four times more than women.

Closer home, Kenya’s life expectancy for women is now at 65 years against 59 years for men. Still in Kenya, the gender parity index at school entry level is now weighted at 1.05 against boys.

Further down in the education stream, the rates of school drop off is now higher in boys than in girls, with 86 per cent of girls surviving class 8 while only 79 per cent of boys survive.

I tend to visit boys’ schools and will occasionally interact with girls at high school level. My experiential evidence is that on average, confidence levels have plummeted among boys compared to girls at a similar age.

My anecdotal evidence may not be far off the mark, the 2022 KNBS report on health status for men and women indicates that 56 per cent of men compared to 43 per cent of women have mental disorders.

I produce these numbers not to alarm, or even to suggest solutions but to emphasize that we have a problem that is brewing and requires attention.

This challenge is societal and requires a multi-sectoral approach involving the religious, educational, professional, civil society and other social sectors. It requires the attention of political and social leaders to arrest the slide.

This column’s contribution to the discourse will limit itself to dropping a few tips for my age group on how to cope better as the season slows us. I focus on this group noting that globally, the suicide rates among men increase steeply once they reach 65.

To my fellow men, firstly, invest in your family. It is a critical anchor as social connections diminish with the years. It is said children belong to their mothers.

Building a relationship between a man and their children will demand deliberate, continuous efforts. If you have a significant other, I will only restate the Kikuyu saying that women pay back in old age.

As the late Prof George Saitoti told us “There comes a time”.  Secondly, invest in good friends.

Most of us have numerous acquaintances but no close friends who can intimately walk the journey of life with you. Those who “sticketh closer than a brother”. I have seen no greater misery than men who are lonely when society no longer needs them as much as it used to.

Thirdly, find a way to “institutionalise” investing in others especially where there is no return. Life’s greatest fulfillments come from giving to causes and people where there is no personal return.

Many of us have many giftings that we can apply to improve society, but having lived a life of ROI, die with lamps we hid under bushels.

Finally, my fellow men, watch out for your health and engage in practices, including diet, that reduce the risks of avoidable ailments.

You will thank me later. Meanwhile, Happy Father’s Day.

The writer is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya

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