By Vivian Onyebukwa
The issue of the boy-child was on the front burner at the unveiling of Boy-Child Transformation Centre (BTC), which took place in Lagos. BTC is an intervention platform that provides a positive, permanent shift in the quality of life of the boy-child.
The organisation works to impact the society by promoting healthy, respectful boy-child causes while offering transformational programs, and resources for companies, foundations, schools, government agencies and community groups.
Stakeholders gathered to witness this rare occasion and also chart the way forward for the upbringing of the boy-child.
In African society, activities shows that more women and girls receive attention and consideration, as they are seen as more vulnerable to abuse, attacks and as well as less privileged. The attention balance tilts more to the girl-child and suddenly the boy-child is out of the picture. As a result, the neglected boy-child generally grows up to be a bigger danger to society that girl child.
It is for this reason that (BTC), a Goshen et-al Organisation was born. “What this world order fails to grasp is the fact that the boy-child has the same or even worse challenges as the girls”, Nkiru Oguadinma, Founder and Chief Transformation Officer, stated. Oguadinma said that a neglected boy-child generally grows up to be a bigger danger to society than girl child. According to her, when a crime is committed in the society, it is 4 times more likely to be man than the woman. “National Statistics 2019, stated that 42,171 armed robbery offences committed between 2014 and 2018 with over 83 percent of the armed robberies were committed by the male gender. Today, the Nigerian prisons have 90 percent of men more than women. 80 percent of suicide cases occur with men due to social pressure to be a man and be strong. The use of drugs and narcotics is 70percent more with boys than girls. School dropout is gradually increasing with boys. The boy-child also suffers various forms of abuse including rape, which is also sadly on the rise”.
She described children as leaders and guardians of the future, therefore, every family and society should aim to raise healthy and productive individuals who are physically and spirituality balanced. “If we help and build our boys early, we wouldn’t have to spend much empowering and training our girls to be better wives because they naturally are. The fight for gender equity for some will go on as it has, even though the focus should be gender equity. But it’s high time we did something to enhance the knowledge and integrity of the boy-child. We need the full responsibility from our men and women, boys and girls.When we fail for the men today, just like we had failed for women decades ago, we create a cycle and someday we might have to focus on the empowerment of the boy-child only because he was neglected”.
The Keynote Speaker, Dakuku Peterside, Immediate Past DG/CEO of NIMASA, applauded Oguadinma for charting a new part. “She understands that boys deserve attention too. We can complement each other. If we have men who cannot fix into into the society, then we have a problem. The orientation is beginning to change gradually”.
Peterside blamed it on African culture which sees the boy-child as the most important. “In this century, many families still prefers a boy-child. It is worst in Igbo speaking part of the country. A family without a boy feels incomplete. The woman’s marriage is threatened because the man is put into pressure to marry a second wife. They believe the boy child is the only one that will continue the family line if the family will continue to exist. You won’t blame them because we are in a patriarchal society. It is also believed that in terms of inheritance, it is the boys that will inherit their father’s property, even though that the Supreme court is changing this. Men are also seen to protect, defend the family. Male children are generally believed to be more resourceful, but unfortunately, they are all wrong assumptions. Female child is generally more important than the male.
He described the situation as stereotypes created by men over a time.
Biologically too, Peterside stated that female has more advantage than male, because biology has shown that even from the time of conception, the female has more advantage that men. “Women are more resilient to disease that men. Statistics show that more male infant die than female. Male child die by age 5 than female. Studies have shown that boys are more likely to suffer genetic diseases than men. You may have more boys in school enrollment but girls perform better. Boys are at higher risk in dropping out of school. Yet, we believe that the boys child is more important than girls”.
He further stated that boys face more societal challenges, yet nothing is done about that. “More NGOs are sitting up for the girls child but totally neglect the boy child. They are more likely to participate in deviant behaviour, cultism, and armed robbery. They have higher tendency to suffer depression. There is also peer pressure. So we have a bigger challenge in our hands. Boys are expected to be more responsible fathers, leaders, etc. It is only when we begin to take care of the boy child that we will get good society. Family, teachers, environment, government, all have roles to play. There should be mentorship system to guide the boys should be set up. The government at all levels have roles to play. Government should create policies that can advance the interest of boy child. Public enlightenment should begin to draw attention to the issues of the boy child. Let this be the beginning of the issues concerning the boy child”, he said.
The Special Guest of Honour, Adetola Salau, who is the Senior Special Assistant to Lagos state Governor on Education, sees character building as important in education. “Mindset, harmony, collaboration, team building from all men and women, are the needed solution to the problem”, she said.
The panelists consisted of men and women of integrity who shared their personal experiences while chatting the way forward. Among them were Tunji Olugbodi, Executive Vice Chairman and Group Chief Executive Officer of Verdant Zeal Group, Kola Oyeyemi, Founder, Ignite Africa Leadership Foundation, and Senior Pastor of the Chapel of Uncommon Grace, Lagos, Dr Ifeyinwa Nwakwesi, CEO, Women Alliance Group (WAG), and Bayo Sanni, ex banker.
According to Tunji Olugbodi, the goodness of life comes from the experience of the boy child. Upbringing, he said, has a role to play in the formation of a boy child
For Kola Oyeyemi, a boy you don’t raise today is that terrible husband, boss, tomorrow. “As we transform the boys, the family need to include to be included in the conversation”, he said.
Ifeyinwa Nwakwesi, advised that parents should imbibe the spirit of prayer in their children, teach them principal centre value which is honesty and handwork. “Teach them to be able to take care of their challenges, physical bodies, common sense knowledge, health care pieces, relationship, and leadership. “Failures are because we don’t train the boys. Interrupt those negative thoughts as they come. Build spirituality”, she advised.
Bayo Sanni asked family, community to help in the achieving this goal. “Environment has a great role in the upbringing of a boy child. Teachers also has a role to play in guiding and nurturing the boy child. Family, school, to a great extent, have roles to play to the growth of a boy child. Their roles cannot be over emphasised. There is need to re-navigate and redirect. Reformation is important to bring back those who have already gone astray. Government also has a role to play by reforming them by drafting policies, if possible for the stray boys or men to retrace their steps”.
Trustee, IMARA Foundation, Fabia Ogunmekan,who collaborated with the BTC, called for collaboration of all stakeholders to ensure the proper upbringing of the boy-child. “Indeed, we believe that this is the season for the boy-child renaissance. As a society we must recognise that ensuring gender equality and equity requires that no one is left behind and that policies and administrative actions deal with challenges facing both sexes. It has been said and we at IMARA fully ascribe to the idea that to ignore one category of gender eventually leads to more gaps between the sexes. This in effect erases the gains made in the empowerment of the girl child as the root cause of the systemic disenfranchisement of girls remains patriarchy. To thus realise the gains of all the hard work that we have put into changing the narrative of the girl child, we have to work twice as hard. We must do this if we are to avoid regression, by lifting up and investing in her male counterpart. Truly a society can only develop when it operates at full capacity and when it takes advantage of its full gamut of diversity. Here is the bitter truth, and I say this with all solidarity for the girl child empowerment movement of which at IMARA we remain a part of, if we continue to ignore the challenges facing the boy child, we will eventually get to a point of crises as we were with girls several years ago. To, therefore, effectively lift the girl child up, we must do so in tandem with also ensuring the adequate uplift of the boy, her effective partner in progress and nation building”.
She called for support and collaborative partnerships in the area of mentorship and education, along the lines articulated by the BTC framework presented at the unveiling.