TEARS OF A BOY CHILD
Gender equality or rather should I say Gender Equity, as it has been currently rephrased, has been an engaging topic of discussion in our African circles for the past few years. Upholding its origination from the West, unto whom we are often imitators, the discussion has been so strong and actively promoted with a touch of societal emphasis. What is this gender equality? What is this Gender Equity? And what is the origin or history of these two sentiments?
Gender equality is a belief that both men and women should receive equal treatment. People should not be discriminated against because of their gender. Gender equity means fairness of treatment for women and men, according to their respective needs. This may include equal treatment or treatment that is different, but which is considered equivalent in terms of rights, benefits, obligations and opportunities. At the end of the day let us remember that gender equality is but a mindset. The word mindset simply means a way of thinking; an attitude or opinion… and this gender equality mindset is just an opinion or way of thinking that belongs to and started from the western world. In a wider society, the movement towards gender equality began with the suffrage movement in western cultures in the late 19th century, which sought to allow women to vote and hold elected office.
Why are they fighting for this gender phenomenon? I believe it is because they feel society has sidelined the girl child, they feel society has put the girl child at a disadvantage as compared to the boy child. Society has told the girl child that her place is in the kitchen, her purpose is to make babies and nurture them, her duty is to do the house chores and so on and so forth. The word society means or is a long-standing group of people sharing cultural aspects such as language, dress, norms of behavior and artistic forms, and this is why I find it funny that we say society has done this or that, as though society was a person. But inasmuch as we want to put the blame on this imaginary being called society, I would like us to remember that society is you and me. According to the definition given, we see that society is a group of people. You, me, her, him and them make up what we call society and we are society. What you and I accept and teach our children is what society has told our children. And so really the blame is not on this imaginary being called society but the blame is on you and me because we are society. It is of utmost importance that we as Africans do not mix and dilute our cultures with the western culture or other cultures as it may be. This mixing of cultures just brings about campaigns that we don’t understand. Without seeing it we are in a way used to spread the culture of western countries. Why not influence the western world to spread our African cultures.
Without any sense of debate to this discussion, but in comparison to the West, African governments have given our women more strength and opportunities in comparison to the West. Since the foundation of America, they have never had a female president or vice President; Africa we have proved them wrong in this regard. Something worth taking into consideration. When you go through history you will learn of the amazing African Woman that where warriors and led men into battle. The narrative that Africa does not respect the presence of a woman should be thrown away, and we should reach a point where we begin to add value to both the girl child and the boy child.
What is it that we are teaching our children? We need to be extra careful with how we behave and go about living life around our children because they do not only learn from being told what to do and what not to do but more effectively they learn from what they observe and copy. If you asked a child psychologist they would tell you that a child learns more effectively by observing and copying what others around him or her are doing than by being told what to do.
Now, knowing that we are all entitled to our own opinions, forgive me for speaking my mind and uttering words that might probably poke or anger some women and ladies who call themselves feminists and that are probably fighting for this gender phenomenon, but a man and a woman will never be equal. I say this because it is not everything that a man can do that a woman can do and vice versa. By design a man has certain features that a woman does not have and vice versa for a reason.
When we go back to the definitions of gender equality and gender equity we find that there is a distinction even in trying to define and justify this fight. They say gender equality is a belief that men and women should be treated equally but then later on after discovering that that in itself will not be fair to the woman they rephrase it and call it gender equity which they say is the fairness in treatment for women and men according to their respective needs, this may include equal treatment or treatment that is different… this just means they accept the distinction between a man and a woman and agree that treatment should be different in relation to both genders. A woman can incubate and give birth to a child but a man cannot do that. A man can plant his seed in a woman’s womb but a woman cannot.
Don’t get me wrong, I agree that a girl child should be given the same opportunities and resources as the boy child. But when we begin to fight for gender equality or equity we begin to lose the true significance of a woman. If we had to look at it from a religious point of view, Christianity to be
specific, we see that God created a man first then later on decided to create from the man a woman, a helper. Now you only need help from a person who is stronger than you, a person who is better off than you and a person who is able to bring positive change in your life. So by Gods design a woman is stronger than a man, a woman is better off than a man and she is supposed to bring positive change into a man’s life, And hence the need to create a helpmate for the man by God. If the man needed no help and was strong enough on his own God wouldn’t have blessed him with a helper a woman. This is one of the many reasons I believe a man and a woman cannot be equal and should not be treated equally. It is the same society that tells the girl child that she is the weaker vessel and the man the stronger vessel. Anyway enough about religion because I know we have so many religions on earth that have different philosophies and ideals.
In Africa, when we look at the upbringing of the girl child and the boy child respectively, we see a huge difference. And this difference in upbringing is what later gives birth to a copied fight for gender equality/equity. In Africa a girl child from the age of around 2 to 3years old begins to play with dolls that the mother buys them and she pretends that is a her baby forgetting she is a baby herself. She begins to learn how to be a responsible woman and is taught what is expected of her. She begins to be taught by her mother or mother figure like aunts and older sisters and female guardians the responsibilities of a woman in our African culture.
The girl child is taught things like how to dress in front of elders, how to behave when in the presence of elders. She is not only taught how to do these things in front of elders but through observing her married mother, aunt, older sister or grandmother she sees and learns how to respect and treat a man and a husband. At a tender age she is taught through word of mouth and observing how she has to take care of a home and children. She not only goes through theory but also goes through more of practical lessons.
The girl child knows more about how to look after a home at the age of 10 than a boy child knows at the age of 15. She is nurtured from as early as 5years of age to as late as 24 or 25years of age. She is in a school of womanhood for over 20years. In Africa the boy child is only taught or should I say told how to look after a home a few months or weeks before he gets married. In a hurry, he is told what is expected of him as a man in a few months if he is lucky or a few weeks. Now put together a girl child or should I say a young lady who has been taught, told and shown what is expected of her as a woman for at least 20years not only through theory but practically as well and a boy child or
should I say a young man who is only told what is expected of him as a man a few months or weeks before they get married. The girl child is taught and shown for a long period of time how to respect her husband and yet the boy child is told how to respect his wife weeks before he gets married. Honestly how do you expect a person who has been in school for over 20years to submit to a person who has been in school for a few months or worse a few weeks? This imbalance in upbringing causes the girl child to fight for equality because she has been taught how to treat the boy child but he hasn’t really been taught how to treat her.
I recently came across a video on Facebook in which a girl child who should have been approximately between 5 and 8years of age was bathing a baby who looked not more than 3months old under the supervision of her mother. In this video you could hear the child asking the mother questions and the mother giving guide and direction on what the girl child should do. I was touched after seeing this video. It made me realize how much time our mothers spend on nurturing the girl child and teach them things concerning womanhood. Simultaneously, it made me realize how very little time our fathers spend on nurturing the boy child from a tender age on things concerning manhood. This is one of the many lacunas I have discovered in relation to the development and upbringing of the boy child. In other words, I can safely say that the boy child has been neglected by society.
There are certain things that a man can teach a boy child that a woman cannot teach the boy child and vice versa. 90% of what the girl child learns in terms of being a woman in life comes from the mother or should I say mother figure in her life and the same applies to the boy child in that 90% of what the boy child is supposed to learn about being a man in life should come from the father or father figure in his life. A father or father figure in the life of a girl child is also supposed to help the child understand who the boy child is and how she is supposed to respect and treat him and likewise the mother or mother figure in the life of a boy child is supposed to help the child understand who the girl child is and how he is supposed to respect and treat her not only in terms of marriage but in society as well.
It is only through the collaboration of the father and the mother in the upbringing of the boy child that we shall see an end to issues like the fight for gender equality and gender-based violence. But today in Africa, you will find that when the girl child at an early age in her life is being taught what is expected of her as a woman the boy child is not being taught what is expected of him as a man but
instead when the girl child is being taught how to cook and when to cook the boy child is out playing football with his fellow boys. When the girl child is being taught how to wash plates after a meal the boy child is out playing and climbing trees.
When the girl child is being taught how to wear a chitenge (wrapper) when around men and elders and how to kneel down before elders when talking to them the boy child is out having fun and when the mother is teaching the girl child how to treat a husband and respect a man the boy child is again out having fun. We spend so much time, energy and resources fighting for the girl child when the girl child is not the problem but the problem is the boy child. We need more women advocating for the development of the boy child. Because once the boy child understands his role, responsibilities, purpose and is taught for a period of over 20years starting from a tender age as early as 5years we will not have a generation of women fighting for gender equality or equity because the boy child will understand himself and will know that he is not supposed to belittle or sideline or disadvantage the girl child. He will know because he has been taught and he has seen his elders respecting the women in society.
They say if you educate a boy you educate an individual, but if you educate a girl, you educate a nation. This maybe in some way true because of what society invests in the girl child. So much time and effort goes into the upbringing of a responsible girl child to a woman but very little goes into the upbringing of the boy child into a man. The girl child is taught that as a woman, as a mother you have to not only think of yourself but think of others first before yourself, think of your children first, think of your family first before yourself, she is taught to let her children and others eat before she can eat, you will find that she is taught and shown this for over 20years and it becomes a part of her DNA. This is why when she is educated she wants to see her children and family members educated even people not related to her educated.
Fathers, uncles, brothers, male guardians should rise up to the task at hand and begin to raise and nurture a new breed of young men or should I say the boy child who knows his place in the home and outside the home, who knows his duties and responsibilities as a man and who knows, appreciates and respects the girl child’s roles, responsibilities and freedoms. It is only through the collaboration of fathers and mothers in the upbringing of the boy child that the woman folk can end the fight for the so called gender equality/equity. Focus and more attention has to be channeled towards the neglected boy child in Africa. When it comes to the upbringing of the boy child we need
to invest in the boy child as much as we are investing in the girl child. The problem we have in Africa is the boy child. The proper upbringing of the boy child is the solution to this problem called gender inequality.
The home is the most important institution that the girl child and the boy child both learn from first, their lecturers being the mother and father (male guardian/female guardian). There is a tremendous difference when it comes to what the child is taught at school and what the child is taught at home in terms of quality of life content. What is taught in the home has an enormous impact on the child’s life and future as opposed to what is taught at school. Early this year I came across a write up that talked about what children learn at home and what they learn at school. It is at home that children learn to say: HELLO, GOODAFTERNOON, GOOD EVENING, PLEASE, MAY I, SORRY, FORGIVE ME, THANK YOU VERY MUCH, THANK YOU, I WAS WRONG it is at home that we also learn to: BE HONEST, BE PUNCTUAL, NOT INSULT, BE POLITE, RESPECT EVERYONE; friends, colleagues, elders, teachers, authorities, again at home we learn to: EAT EVERYTHING, NOT SPEAK WITH A MOUTH FULL, HAVE PERSONAL HYGIENE, NOT THROW WASTE ON THE GROUND, HELP PARENTS ACOMPLISH THEIR DAILY TASKS, NOT TAKE WHAT DOES NOT BELONG TO YOU still at home we learn to: BE ORGANIZED, TAKE CARE OF OUR BUSINESS, NOT TOUCH OTHER PEOPLES BELONGINGS, RESPECT THE RULES, SPEAK OUR MOTHER TONGUE, MASTER OUR CULTURE AND ANCESTRAL SPIRITUALITY because at school the teachers teach: MATHEMATICS, SPANISH, HISTORY, GEOGRAPHY, SCIENCE, CHEMISTRY, PHYSICS, BIOLOGY, PHILOSOPHY, SOCIOLOGY, PHYSICAL EDUCATION, ART… this only reinforces what the student has already learned at home. You see it is only from what we have learned at home that we as individuals will be respected and will respect the life and freedom of both the girl child and the boy child. All this can be made possible if only the fathers (male guardians) rise up to the task at hand and devote as much attention and nurturing required to the boy child as the mother devotes to the girl child at a tender age.
I feel the fight for gender equality is somewhat misplaced, instead of fighting to be equal to men and fighting for equal treatment our women should begin to fight for equal attention and energy in line with the upbringing of the boy child. We need to relook at this fight for gender equality through the eyes and mind of the African and not through the eyes and mind of the western world. We need to find the root cause and offer an African solution to this problem like I have done.
Inasmuch as criticizing has got its advantages, let us not only be good at criticizing and shooting down what others bring to the table but let us also be good at offering alternative solutions. What I am trying to establish in this article is the importance of taking into consideration that we are not giving the boy child the necessary attention as he deserves in comparison to the girl child. The boy child has become vulnerable to suicidal thoughts, drug addiction, and misguided personal development because he is lacking mentorship and he feels as though he is losing his masculinity in a world where he is rarely under discussion. Men are not opening because of the society we are creating. I believe it is high time we started attaching an African touch to whatsoever we may deem to be ‘cool’ that is coming from the west. The west will never adopt our cultures, why is it the other way round with us? This is not a debate, let us exchange ideas, we do not create a just and diversely coexisting society by unleashing intellectual wrath upon each other.
Written by Israel W. Simuchimba
Author | Agribusiness Expert | Speaker|