Has the boy child been neglected? Is the girl child being “too empowered” at the expense of the boy child?
The debate around the neglect of the boy child in light of the increasing girl child empowerment efforts took centre stage at the Nation Leadership Forum on Thursday night whose main agenda was “Kenya’s Gender Dilemma”.
The general aim of the forum – which was televised live on NTV Thursday night – was to discuss how to include more women in the decision-making processes, but the debate took an unexpected direction – that of the seemingly disenfranchisement of the boy child.
Anchored on facts such as the recently released KCPE 2017 results where 22 out of the top 35 pupils were girls, a good section of the audience – mostly the young males – felt that it was time the government and the NGOs shifted their efforts from the girl child and begin to affirm the boys.
The animated but clearly divided crowd could not agree if the girl child is “too empowered” and if it was time to redirect efforts to reaffirm the boys to stay in school and scale great career heights.
“We know that the girl child has been so empowered that they are even taking away everything from the boy child,” says another young man who identified himself only as Walter, a journalism student at University of Nairobi.
Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso disagreed with the notion of the over empowerment and the sense of entitlement of the girls, suggesting that boys and girls have equal rights to resources.
“I don’t know what sense of entitled means. I think all of us as children in a family are equally entitled to resources. It is all in socialisation… that needs to be change and see your sisters as equal partners,” said Govenor Laboso.
However, it was clear that against the background of massive girl child empowerment campaigns, backed up by various economic campaigns targeting women, the role of the man in society – which is to provide and protect – is slowly changing and being democratised to include women.
There was therefore a call to redefine the role of a man to include more than just providing, because today’s empowered women often earn more than the men and bring a lot more to the table than they did decades ago.
Gender and Youth Cabinet Secretary Cecily Kariuki agreed with the members of the audiences, admitting that there are cases where boys are faring poorly compared to the girls.
Citing a study conducted by the ministry across several counties including Embu, Meru, Kilifi, Vihiga and Kisumu, CS Kariuki says that there are signs that in some pockets of the country, there is need to support demotivated boys.
Mwangi Githaiga, the managing director of Kenya Women’s Finance Trust (KWFT) noted that the issue of a seemingly demotivated generation of young men who are losing opportunities to the girls could be traced to the home front, where fathers have abandoned their duties.
“The problem is at home. Who are the role models of the boys we have today? Homework is done by the mothers. Boys have no role models. That is why you see girls have grown up with confidence. This is not about the boy child, we should be dealing with the grown men,” says Mr Githaiga.
While recent KCPE results paint a picture of girls seemingly doing better than the boys and as studies continually show transition from primary school to secondary school being higher for girls than boys, the situation is not so rosy for women in the workplace as Debrah Mallowah, the general manager, consumer healthcare at GSK East Africa, pointed out.
“Let me talk about this from a corporate perspective. A recent study about women in boards shows that there is one woman for every five men on boards and just one female chairman out of 12 board chairmen. In public listed companies, they found that four companies had the entire senior management was just men,” says Ms Mallowah.