Over the past five months, three things have shaken and changed the way I think and act whenever I’m asked “but what about the boy-child?”. Usually my answer to the man (it's always a man) asking me that question is: 'What are you doing? I'm a girl, I get the girls, I don't know much about being a man. Obviously.'
So what's happened to make me change that narrative?
The first obviously is the extremely close proximity of my nephew in my life after my sister passed away. The second was hearing certain CEOs lament about the inability to find good guys to hire. In fact I know of two who are deliberately hiring guys. Not that they are discriminating against women in anyway, but because they have simply got too many women working for them already and they want a balance. Not to mention, they’re a little tired of the looks they get from people, for having such a heavy female squad. The third is actually listening to mothers and aunties and friends who are all a little worried about the state of man.
My fellow Kenyans, iko shida and I’m not shrugging this one off. Vuta kiti, I have a few stories to tell.
A few years ago, as we were going through the motions of dealing with the death of gold medallist Samuel Wanjiru, I recall Ngunjiri Wambugu raising the red flag on what he termed as a 'man crisis'. Allow me to quote him:
“My two cents worth…is that men are to blame for this: Where will a young boy get role models if not from the older man? What kind of role model are the ‘older men’ giving? I started a programme of going back to my former primary school in order to motivate the boys and girls, targeting classes seven and eight. During the first session last year, we asked the kids to visualise their dreams, what they want to see of their lives in future. Many of the kids (and all the girls) had something to do with a career. A few boys didn’t seem quite clear. One of the boys had drawn that he wanted to have five wives and 15 children inside his big house! There was nothing about a career. Let’s imagine that this is okay (after all our grandfathers did it…) but a class eight kid? There is a problem.”
Fast forward to last year and two things created my absolute change of heart and mind. The first was Rosemary Odinga who spoke at the Eve Woman event to mark the Day Of The Girl, and boldly declared she mentors boys. Of course you can imagine my awe for her. I have never felt I had anything to offer — I have never been a man and I have no idea how to be one, so what could I possibly tell a small boy about the art of being a man. Rosemary had challenged my thinking.
Later on that same month, I came across an article that put some frightful facts on the table. It said in part: “Suicide is now the single biggest cause of death in men aged 20-49 in England and Wales, with males accounting for 78 per cent of all suicides in the UK."
The report then went on to talk about education standards between the genders: "By eighth grade, for instance, only 20 per cent of boys are proficient in writing and 24 per cent proficient in reading. Boys are 30 per cent more likely than girls to drop out of both high school and college … Nationally, boys account for 70 per cent of all the Ds and Fs given out at school. It is predicted that women will earn 60 per cent of bachelor’s, 63 per cent of master’s and 54 per cent of doctorate degrees by 2016”.
As we sat down to breakfast the other day with a few women, we got round to that very topic and realised we do have to get involved in ensuring the boy-child gets some attention. We're not saying that enough has been done for girls. But we can't leave half the population behind. Of course we were all in agreement that we would only step-up to the plate if a man was willing to come along with us. We haven't the equipment to allow us to be authorities on the nature of man, no matter good our intentions are. So, let me leave you with food for thought as you go forth and debate the issue of Man. I have borrowed Sam Gichuru’s blueprint for men, to get the conversation started and the ideas flowing:
1. Make your own fortune: Bring home the bacon or pig. Men don’t settle for handouts, wealthy dads don't count; if you inherit a fortune, then show you are a real man and multiply it 10 times.
2. Pay the bills: With fellow men, contribute your percentage of the bill, with women, pay the entire bill, which means you take her to the places you can afford… or start calling Maina Kageni early.
3. Make decisions: Ask for advice, consult, but make sure the final decision is yours, good or bad. Nothing is as irritating as an indecisive man even to other men #watermelon
4. Your word, your bond: A man is known for the choices he makes (decisions) and the words he speaks. Say it and mean it, and I am not saying be right… When you make a promise, keep it! Men respect men who keep their word, women love them.
5. Follow and Lead: Find someone you can follow, and find someone you can lead. We all follow someone and lead others. You become a better leader when you teach the lessons you learn from following others.
6. Stop idealising women: Who lied to us that women are perfect?. They are not angels, and the minute you put a halo around her head, you completely fail to notice her flaws. You my friend will call Maina Kageni.
7. Being in touch with your feminine side #fail: OK, every time I meet Christian men coming from Church and they have to say hi, they have a soprano voice, “Hi… It’s so nice to see you!”. Can we stop the nonsense? There is nothing Christian about talking with a high pitch voice!
8. Be Clean! Scrub twice, rinse, use ka-deodorant kidogo. Please: don’t smell like a flower, that will send the wrong message
9. Find a spiritual anchor: A man who knows God will always have a very good GPS to find his way back to himself. Finding God does not mean you won’t fail, It just means you will get up faster and smarter.
Thomas Jefferson once said something I believe should make all of us sit up straight and start working tirelessly on our boys as we seek to grow them into fine men: "Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude."
Let's seek to cultivate the right mental attitude.