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February 21, 2019

Sending Out An SOS - Save Our Sons

Activists with underwear's protest along city streets over the rape of a 16-year-old schoolgirl by six men in Busia. The protesters presented a petition to inspector general David Kimaiyo. Photo/HEZRON NJOROGE
Activists with underwear's protest along city streets over the rape of a 16-year-old schoolgirl by six men in Busia. The protesters presented a petition to inspector general David Kimaiyo. Photo/HEZRON NJOROGE

A year ago (November 11, 2012) I penned an article that I hoped would spark real debate and conversation and was a little surprised to note that although it touched a nerve, most people sort of whispered about it. I understood the discomfort some people had with the subject matter, but I was surprised that I wasn’t saying anything people didn’t know, worry about, think about, talk about or even agonize about. My article basically asked “did you raise me a husband?”

Quick recap: A few weeks ago, my girls and I were having lunch and discussing various issues - business, work, our charity venture and of course life. On the next table, totally unknown to us was a senior lady who had been eavesdropping.

As she rose to leave, she came to our table and commented on how lovely we were and how she had enjoyed "the company" seeing as she was on the next table and not really with us. Then, she paused and with a puzzled look on her face she asked " are all smart and beautiful and hardworking, why are you not married?". My girl Val turned to her and asked " Did you raise me a husband?" Yes, very blunt, but not rudely meant at all and I was glad to see that this woman understood her immediately.

As I look at the issue of rape and violence especially among generation Y males towards the female of the species of whatever age, I feel I need to revisit the issue. Pastor Kev who joined us in the studio on Wednesday morning as women demonstrated to call attention to the rape case and gross miscarriage of justice on Liz - said clearly and loudly, that as parents and society we should call out the manhood in our sons from an early age. His son is only two years old and yes, this father is making sure to call out his manhood – as was intended.

We seem to forget that one is born male. Being male doesn’t make one a man. A child born male, is raised to become a man. Sadly from the day our children come into our lives, we raise our daughters to be mothers, wives, hardworking, giving, goal oriented beings. We don’t do the same for our sons and by doing so we fail them and society at large. I guess the issues we need to deal with and ask ourselves are- are we raising our daughters and destroying our sons and in so doing destroying society.

There is a quote from Gloria Steinem, that has stuck with me for a while, not because I even understood it, actually it stuck for with me because I didn’t understand at all – until now. “We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons...but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.” It seems so simple when you look at it, yet if someone was to ask us to actively apply it we almost run away and hide.

There is an old saying that goes: We raise our daughters and love our sons. Looking at myself and my friends; as daughters, we are not only taught traditional gender roles, but because of the realities of what we call “dunia ya leo”, we’re also taught how to conduct themselves in the absence of fathers, breadwinners and active male role models for ourselves and our children.

Young men, especially African, Kenyan young males, are taught that men are supposed to be the kings of their castle – nobody really tells them what it takes to reign. As society, as mothers and sisters we have failed the young males in our lives because we stopped putting pressure on them to succeed the way we do with our daughters. There is no need to succeed in life when you have a mum who is willing to shield her son from responsibility and a father who is willing to write off his bad behaviour and misdeeds under the heading “boys will always be boys.”

The two decades since Beijing have been okay for women and the “girl-child”. I say okay because there is still so, so much work to be done - however along the way, we forgot the boy-child and therein lies the heartache and madness we are faced with today. When did boys begin to disrespect those who gave birth to them?

In the two decades since Beijing, we have raised a generation of pampered, lawless, clueless, whining young males who have no idea what it takes to be a man – a leader, a protector, a provider. The curse of this is what we see in the papers – young men who gang rape children and walk free while their parents hide them. If only someone would tell both the parents and the boys that you can run but you will never hide. The tears of that young girl and her mother have cursed you and yours. This sin will not go unpunished ever – it will haunt and destroy them all.

We need to find a way to save our sons so that we can save our daughters. No matter what side of this issue of rape and gender violence you may stand on, without raising accountable and responsible sons, our daughters will remain at high risk.

I truly believe that the focus strictly on girls that began in the 1990s is one of the main reasons that boys are struggling the way they are today – and they are struggling. It’s an effort to be a teen male, a young male in his twenties and even a husband and father going forward. It is the reason our daughters are at risk. The “girls’ movement” that came out of a need to create a better world for girls and women and hence a better world for all of us excluded the boys. We are paying a high price for this – our precious daughter are under attack from a species that doesn’t know it’s role or place.

We have left half our children behind, and this is not good for any of us and especially our daughters. This is an SOS – Save our Sons, or our daughters will continue to be at risk.

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