Where are the men?

Sunday morning. 11.30 am East African time.

I walk like a zombie to the nearest kiosk to buy to onions, tomatoes and coriander so that my sister can make her delicious stir-fried veggies, rice and potatoes for lunch as I look on enjoying a mug of tea. I am disturbed to see young men in their late teens and early 20s parked outside our estate bopping their heads to latest ear-deafening music that could wake the dead as they chew and pass around miraa (khat).

Now, that I am partially awake, questions swarm in my mind: Aren’t these the same guys who “chill out “ here every evening? Where do they get the money do get all the liquor and miraa? Don’t they have a life? How come they have it so easy and I don’t even have time even for myself?  Could they be linked to Al- Shabab? Let me explain the last question. I live in an estate where seemingly more than half of the residents are of Cushitic origin and thus practice Islam. (FYI, I am not anti-Cushitic.)

This scenario is not unique to my area of Nairobi but is common in various parts of the country. Well, the only thing that may differ is that the young men could be sitted in the marketplaces waiting for I don’t know who or what….maybe Goddot? Meanwhile, the young women walk from the shamba to go home to carry out their various chores at home or to the market to sell their produce.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Parents have sacrificed their hard earned money to enable these young men to go to school and some have even denied their daughters similar opportunities and yet the same young men just bum around all day?!!! Malala Yousafzai’s story is one of the few  that make it to international headlines.  I do not think  I can even talk about NTV’s Rose Wangui’s piece about Beads of Bondage.

It said that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and these days women are not leaving anything to chance. There are venturing into fields that previously unchartered by men. I am proud to say that more and more are involved in sciences, they are the backbone of microfinance institutions and heavily involved in businesses. By the way, have you heard about the 19 year old female Uganda MP?

I remember when the Maendeleo ya Wanaume was formed a couple of years back, they were scoffed at or rather they were the butt of every joke. Unfortunately, the only time that they make headlines in the Kenyan media is when men are battered. Speaking of male battering, I do not condone violence against men but I can understand the plight of Nyeri women. I am sure hat you probably got an email or text message: If the Nyeri drama was serialized in Kenya, would it be called, Tom and Njeri, My knife and kids, Panga-puff girls….I know those jokes left  a sour taste in our Kikuyu folk’s mouth.

I would like to reiterate, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Personally, I do not think that I can stand a man  who spends all his money on his liquor and gachungwa, then comes home in the dead of night asking me where is supper, yet he did not spare even a single coin in the morning.  Do not forget, I break my back in the shamba, tend to our farm animals and OUR children…SERIOUSLY!!! If the Nyeri drama did not serve a wakeup call for Kenyan men, I don’t know what will.

My father is not perfect but I am extremely grateful that he has been there for me and my crazy beautiful sisters.  I remember him telling me while I was still in primary school, that I should never be intimidated by boy just because he is a boy but what he brings to the table. I can understand why he constantly reminded us of that fact since in our community (like many other African communities) the boy child is highly regarded.  What would it take a man to leave his friends watching his favourite EPL team at favourite local to go home to help his son/daughter to learn a math concept or improve their spelling or at least teach them how to ride a bike?  Who will show the boys that being a man does not include gaining the highest score on Playstation? Fathers need to step and take up their rightful place as head of their households and partner with their wives.

I remember one of my university lecturers told me that her dad (a former prominent judge) used to sit with them as they did their homework as he studied for a case. I know that circumstances may not always allow for parents to always be there for their children especially now that we live in the age of the rat race. I believe that parents should seek to know their children beyond providing for the basic needs (which does not include the latest smart phone or x-box, btw) or assessing their grades at the end of the school term. Learn the unique things about each child and know their motivators and their deepest fears. The house-help already have too much on their hands with ensuring that the house is spotlessly clean. Teachers do a great job with providing children with knowledge but they can only do so much in boosting their self-esteem (that is when they are not up in arms about their pay hikes). Religious institutions can provide spiritual nourishment but children model their faith after/against their parents.

My best friend’s mum used to tell me when I was much younger, “If I found you doing anything, I would discipline you like you were my daughter”. This sense of community where we look out for each others’ children evaporated with the rise of children’s rights and gated communities. I am not for beating a child to a pulp but wise words of counsel to children and even to the parents would help and show that you care especially when you have their best interest at heart.

I do not think there is enough hair on my head to enumerate the number of pro-girl-child initiatives in the world. It was realized a long time ago that when you educate a woman, you educate a village.  On this premise, these pro-girl-initiatives have sought to empower women to better themselves and their dependants as men continue to rest on their laurels. Well, it goes without saying that the women have been looked at the weaker sex even in Bible times.  True, we are not physically strong as men but that has been mistaken for not being able to pull as much as weight as men when it comes to intellectual strong. I think men have spent too much time and resources being oppressors that they have forgotten their role as providers, leaders and protectors. Hence, phrases like over-empowerment of the girl-child should not exist. Women have taken advantage of the opportunities that they have long been denied and making a difference in their spheres of influence.

In short, unless active steps are taken to empower the boy child, he will become endangered gender. Plus, I would like to recommend the movie Courageous to all  fathers and fathers-to-be.

 

Related:

How Feminist Mothers Can Raise Feminist Sons (Rikki Rogers)

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