Last week, Nderitu Njoka of Maendeleo ya Wanaume asked men to shun sex for six days, in an effort to highlight the plight of the boy-child.
As an adult woman and business owner, I am the end user of what the boy-child is growing into, that is, a man. I am to raise him, be governed by him (men hold the majority in legislation and government), marry him, raise a family with him, and perhaps employ him. Why don’t you, Njoka, ask me what I would like?
One of the glaring ways in which the boy-child is lagging behind is in coping with his modern female peer. The increased access to education and economic opportunity means that she can establish a female headed home. The just released Socio-Economic Atlas of Kenya shows that about a third of Kenyan households are headed by women.
Let me be clear, I want emancipation for all. The feminist movement is about creating equal opportunities for women – an environment in which women have choices – to be or not to be a housewife, to pursue or not to pursue a career, to serve or not to serve in government and so on. We have made great strides but a glance at our representation in leadership tells you that we still have a long way to go and we are not pausing for the boy-child.
We want men who can partner with us. I am interested in a man who will celebrate, support and even invest in my success. I ask for this because I would be happy to offer the same. Myself and my peers are told frequently and fervently that we intimidate men and perhaps we should play down our successes and learn to let a man lead. The leading is not the issue, the leadership is the issue.
A short drive around Nairobi at about 11pm on a random Tuesday night will demonstrate what I am talking about. Our men are drunk. An inattentive ear to our radio stations will tell you that our husbands continue to date after marriage. The violence perpetrated by men against us women is staggering. Lives like these are not created by joyous people who are fulfilling their purpose. They are created by desperate people, deeply unhappy people.
I have been studying male and female relationships for years and I can tell you that creating chamas for men will not work. You guys simply do not communicate as we do – you come alive during shared activities. Perhaps Maendeleo ya Wanaume should think about creating spaces where men can play some kind of sport and in the process, exchange ideas about their lives and opportunities available to them?
Njoka, you are right, something needs to be done about the boy-child. Your method is, however, misguided. Abstinence is not going to address violence, drunkenness, promiscuity and the despair of lacking economic opportunity. I believe men and boys need spaces where they can be heard, understood and supported. Chamas have worked well for women and I think athletic groups might do the trick for men.