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Raising boys right: Nurturing empathy and equality in boys can create safe world for girls and women

In most cultures, especially in Africa, preference to the boy-child has strong cultural, religious, legal and social status. This is principally because a male heir is deemed to as needed to continue the family line.

The boy-child, faced with many challenges, especially in the 21st century, is often times not properly guided; hence the society tends to be losing him.

The African Charter on the Rights of the Child defines a child as anyone below the age of 18; hence a boy-child is a male offspring below the age of 18 years.

Unlike the boy-child, the girl-child has received massive campaign for her rights and protection, with increasing mainstream attention in public healthcare from the early 2000s. While several initiatives to protect the female gender have continued to emerge, those for the male are sparse.

While several initiatives to protect the female gender have continued to emerge, those for the male are sparse

The female-centered initiatives include the International Day of the Girl Child, and UN’s coordinated International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), Cairo in 1994, and the 1995 Beijing Conference that highlighted concerns on women and girls’ empowerment and autonomy.

The initiatives also include laws and regulations against women trafficking and application of criminal laws to under-age sex, child-brides, and sex work. However, it is worthwhile to note that all children are future leaders of tomorrow and custodians of the future.

neglecting issues affecting the boy-child sets foundation for unbalanced male adulthood

As such, the first aim of every family and society should be to raise healthy and productive individuals who are physically, psychologically, and mentally well developed.

Analysts say that neglecting issues affecting the boy-child sets foundation for unbalanced male adulthood, especially as he is the “father’’ of tomorrow, taking charge of families and females who leave their birth families after marriage.

Recognising the importance, the United Nations, in 2018, adopted May 16 every year as the International Day of the Boy Child. It was championed by Dr. Jerome Teelucksingh, a university lecturer from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Since boys are not to display weakness, they tend to suffer in silence

The day focuses on boys and their well-being, their needs to feel happy, healthy, and valued within family and community.

Dr. Naeem Dalal, Advisor, Non-communicable Diseases, Injuries and Mental Health for Africa CDC, affirmed that boys were not taught to reach out for help; and this has detrimental effects.

“Men are supposed to be responsible and breadwinners in communities; showing that part of vulnerability is not something that is accepted in our communities across the African continent in general.

“And not just to stereotype it, but also to be factual that men are also taught not to be reaching out for help growing up as boys and boys are told to be strong and responsible.

If the boy-child is properly groomed and nurtured, there will not be a girl-child abuse

“So, this also causes an issue for men to reach out for mental health services, even when they are there; they may end up committing suicide. These are the challenges we are facing; the boy-child is also human,’’ he said.

He advocated looking at mental health advocacy for communities, also in the direction of men’s health.

Commenting on the boy-child, Ms Ifeoma Ibe, a counsellor, said that boys, in the African setting, are brought up to be macho and it is reiterated in the family, school and church.

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“Some of the prototypes instilled in their minds are that the boy-child is stronger, usually more intelligent and more powerful than girl-child, and therefore, does not need protection as girl-child.

the same energy that parents use to bring up the girl-child should be replicated in the upbringing of the boy-child

“He is not expected to express his emotions or any weaknesses; he is to bear things, good or bad, `like a man’. He is taught not to cry but to always behave in a brave manner.

“Since boys are not to display weakness, they tend to suffer in silence. Society teaches males that they must be in control all the times,’’ she said.

Wellness Specialist, Mrs. Vivian Emejuobi, advised parents to invest time in training their male children to become responsible adults.

“If the boy-child is properly groomed and nurtured, there will not be a girl-child abuse. This proper education will encompass how to treat the opposite sex and it will help to reduce rape and abuse cases in the society.

trafficking of the African boy-child has received far less attention, despite the fact that it exists

“So, the same energy that parents use to bring up the girl-child should be replicated in the upbringing of the boy-child.

“Massive advocacy and sensitisation is required to educate the boy-child to become better person in the future,’’ she said.

A Nigerian author and novelist, Gbenga Sokefun, said that on human trafficking, efforts had been mostly on the protection of the girl-child, trafficked for purposes of prostitution and other forms of indentured servitude.

However, he called on leaders to also concentrate on human trafficking of the boy-child.

poverty has resulted in a brisk trade of young African boys and men under the auspices of narcotics smuggling

Sokefun, the author of a fiction, Adigun, said that trafficking of the African boy-child has received far less attention, despite the fact that it exists.

“The pressures of poverty and the inherent psychological damage of colonialism have resulted in a brisk trade of young African boys and men under the auspices of narcotics smuggling.

“The perpetrators have created a pathway for the African male child whose solution to the inadequacies of the continent is to escape to the ‘greener’ pastures of the Americas, Europe or anywhere away from the continent of Africa.

“They prey on the dreams and desires of these gullible children who seek better life on other continents. These should be tackled,’’ he said.

bringing up the boy-child properly is a social responsibility that parents cannot delegate to others

Lending their voices, some clerics said that bringing up the boy-child properly is a social responsibility that parents cannot delegate to others.

Pastor Chris Nmezi of the Spoken Word Ministry, Ojo Barracks, Lagos, advised parents to conduct themselves in exemplary manners , such that the children would follow same.

He described parents that quarrel and batter each other in the presence of the children as mentally deforming the children.

Nmezi cautioned parents to discard uncomplimentary habits towards others, especially their spouses, to prevent children from copying habits that would portray them as never-do-wells.

Parents, guardians and educators can encourage the boy-child to join positive clubs in school or worship places

“As gatekeepers, whatever we condole or instill in the heads of the children by our actions or inactions is what they will acquire. Any boy that grows up seeing his mother being beaten by his father will see it as a tradition to beat his wife later in life,” he said.

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Sharing similar sentiments, Pastor Gladys Ododo urged parents not to do that which they would not be happy seeing their child indulge in.

Ododo said that parents, especially men, indulge in drinking alcohol even around the home but would not like to see their children of school age do same.

“It is hypocritical; if you don’t want them in it, then stop it. Children copy with ease what they see parents do than what parents tell them.

the interest of boys should be protected because they are also victims of abuse

“Raising your voice at your spouse at every infraction is sending wrong signal to the children and people around. If there is need to correct anyone, do so courteously without attracting unnecessary attention,” she said.

As a way to help the boy-child, Mr. Gaius Edem, a teacher, urged parents to encourage their boy-child to engage in exercise, extra curriculum activities such as belonging to a positive club.

“Parents, guardians and educators can encourage the boy-child to join positive clubs in schools or their religious gatherings. It will help young and growing child to channel their time and energy to meaningful and healthy activities,’’ he said.

abuses also affect boys psychologically, but we do not always hear about it in the media; the focus has always been on the girl-child

In her input, Mrs. Rosita Agomuo, an Educationist and Executive Coordinator of Safe Mamahood, agreed that boys have been relegated to the background, as all attention has so far been on the girl-child.

Agomuo said the interest of boys should be protected because they are also victims of abuse.

“These abuses also affect boys psychologically, but we do not always hear about it in the media; the focus has always been on the girl-child.

“I believe CSOs and NGOs need to do more for the boy-child too by focusing on their peculiar needs and challenges to achieve gender equality,” she said.

All in all, experts are of the view that good training of a boy-child will help to achieve a safer world for the girls/women and humanity at large.

They say if well nurtured and groomed, the boy-child will conscientiously carry, just like the girl-child, the responsibility of fostering understanding, empathy and equality; thereby making a harmonious world for all. (NAN Features)

Vivian Ihechu
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