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 programmes and resources for companies, foundations, schools, government agencies and community groups.
Stakeholders gathered to witness the occasion and also chart the way forward for the upbringing of the boy-child.
In most African societies, more women and girls receive attention and consideration, as they are regarded as less privileged and more vulnerable to abuse and attacks. Attention tilts more to the girl-child and, most times, the boy-child is out of the picture. As a result, the neglected boy generally grows up to be a bigger danger to society than girl.
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 the girl-child. According to her, when a crime is committed, it is four times more likely to be by a man than woman: “National Statistics 2019 stated 42,171 armed robbery offences committed between 2014 and 2018 with over 83 per cent of the armed robberies committed by the male gender. Today, Nigerian prisons have 90 per cent more men than women. Eighty per cent of suicide cases occur with men due to social pressure to be a strong man. The use of drugs and narcotics is 70 per cent 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 equality for some will go on as it has, even though the focus should be gender equity. But it is high time we did something to enhance the knowledge and integrity of the boy-child. We need 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,” she said.
The keynote speaker, Dakuku Peterside, immediate past director-general/CEO of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, applauded Oguadinma for charting a new path. He said: “She understands that boys deserve attention too. We can complement each other. If we have men who cannot fit 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 more important. “In this century, many families still prefer a boy-child. It is worst in the Igbo-speaking part of the country. A family without a boy feels incomplete. The woman’s marriage is threatened because the man is put under 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 can’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 the Supreme Court is changing this.
“Men are also seen to protect and defend the family. Male children are generally believed to be more resourceful but, unfortunately, they are all wrong assumptions. The female child is generally more important than the male.”
He described the situation as stereotypes created by men over time.
Peterside stated that, biologically, the female has more advantage than male: “Women are more resilient to disease than men. Statistics show that more male infants die than female. More male children die by age five than females. Studies have shown that boys are more likely to suffer genetic diseases than girls. You may have more boys in school enrolment 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 girl-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, etcetera. It is only when we begin to take care of the boy-child that we will get good societies.
“Families, teachers, environment and government have roles to play. Mentorship systems to guide the boys should be set up. Government at all levels has roles to play. Government should create policies that can advance the interest of the 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.”
The special guest of honour, Senior Special Assistant to the Lagos State Governor on Education, Adetola Salau, noted that character-building was important in education.
“Mindset, harmony, collaboration, team-building from all men and women are the needed solution to the problem”, she said.
The panelists at the event consisted of men and women of integrity who shared their personal experiences while charting 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; and Bayo Sanni, ex-banker.
According to 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 Oyeyemi, the boy you don’t raise well today becomes a terrible husband and boss tomorrow.
“As we transform the boys, the family needs to be included in the conversation,” he said.
Dr. 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.
Sanni asked the family and community to help in achieving this goal: “Environment has a great role in the upbringing of a boy-child. Teachers also have a role to play in guiding and nurturing the boy child. Family, school, to a great extent, have roles to play in 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 through 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 cooperation of all stakeholders to ensure the proper upbringing of the boy-child.
“Indeed, we believe that this is the season for 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, 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 lifting of the boy, her effective partner in progress and nation-building”.
She called for support and partnerships in mentorship and education, along the lines articulated by the BTC framework presented at the unveiling.