Nurturing Boy-Child to Save the Girl-Child

By Vivian Ihechu

In most cultures, especially in Africa, preference to the boy-child has strong cultural, religious, legal and of course, social status.

This is principally because a male heir is 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 health care from the early 2000s.

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

The female-centered initiatives include, inter alia, 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.

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

Analysts say that neglecting issues affecting the boy-child sets foundation for unbalanced male adult 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.

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 had 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.

“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, were brought up to be macho and it was reiterated in  the family, school and church.

“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.

“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 always behave in a brave manner since boy-child is not to display their weakness; they tend to suffer in silence.

“Society teaches males that they must be in control all the times,’’ she said.

Mrs Vivian Emejuobi, a Wellness Specialist, 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 gender and it will help to reduce rape and abuse cases in the society.

“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 persons in the future,’’ she said.

A Nigerian author and novelist, Gbenga Sokefun,  said that on human trafficking , efforts had been mostly on the girl-child.

According to him, the focus of these efforts has been primarily on female children, 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.

Sokefun, the author of a fiction, “Adigun”, said that trafficking of the African boy- child had received far less attention, despite the simple fact that it existed.

“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 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 a better life on other continents.

“These should be tackled,’’ he said

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 coping habits that would portray them as never do wells.

“As gatekeepers whatever we condole or instill in the heads of the children by our actions or inactions that they will acquire.

“Any boy that grows up seeing her mother being beaten by his father will see it as a tradition to beat his wife later in life,” he said.

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 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 told them.

“Rising up voice at your spouse at every infraction or detestable conduct is sending wrong signal in 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 also help young and growing child to channel their time and energy to meaningful and healthy activities,’’ he said.

In her input, Mrs Rosita Agomuo, an Educationist and Executive Coordinator of Safe mamahood, agreed that boys had been relegated to the background, as all attentions were on the girl-child.

Agomuo said that 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 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. (NANFeatures)

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