Breaking Borders

Navigating Uncharted Waters: Advocacy and the Boy Child

By: Praise T. Oluwasina

Dearest Gentle Reader,

There is a saying that “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors”, and neither is avoiding certain topics as a society builds a Better Man. Much like sailors navigating turbulent seas to refine their skills, young boys find themselves facing challenges seldom acknowledged or discussed.

The boy child faces unknown waters in the vast ocean of societal expectations, which call for fortitude, flexibility, and a strong sense of self. These difficulties are frequently accompanied by silent battles that go unnoticed, which leaves a gap where the weights placed on youthful shoulders are hidden behind a curtain of social silence. For young boys, society has imposed a complicated web of duties and expectations that define what it is to be a “real man.” These expectations, nevertheless, are rarely examined closely or honestly. The boy child carries a great deal of weight, but societal standards prevent boys from acknowledging their responsibilities.

It becomes clear as we embark on our investigation of these unexplored waters that understanding and empathy can only be fostered by deciphering the nuances of the boy child’s experience. It’s time to set out on a mission to reveal the unsaid battles, bring attention to the difficulties young boys encounter, and start a conversation that breaks the taboo around their particular issues.

The first unexplored topic is emotional suppression, which is like a wall of ice created against a boy child. It’s no secret that boys struggle with the pressure to maintain a stoic façade since they grow up in a society that discourages showing emotion. When emotional navigation is denied, mental health issues flourish and internal disputes go unresolved since the required support networks aren’t available. Because of these kinds of beliefs, boys are frequently dissuaded from expressing their vulnerability or seeking support for their mental health issues, even in the face of intense internal and external pressures. Many boys suffer in silence, unable to express their emotions or get the help they so desperately need, as a result of the stigma associated with mental health in men.

All of this has its roots in the idea of toxic masculinity, another uncharted water of society.  The idea of toxic masculinity hangs heavy over boy children, enforcing strict standards on what it means to be a “real man.” It is difficult for guys to rebel against these expectations since they impede their ability to grow personally and express themselves authentically. Because of this issue, males are put under pressure to fit into stereotypes, which impedes their ability to express themselves authentically and grow as individuals. For the boy youngster, escaping these expectations becomes a difficult undertaking.

In addition to impeding personal development and genuine self-expression, the pressures from society for boys to conform to conventional roles also play a major influence on the educational gaps that exist. Boy students face particular difficulties that are frequently disregarded in conversations as they strive for academic excellence. Gender prejudices greatly impact males’ performance, and the narrow conversation often reinforces the false notion that girls are the only ones who face scholastic difficulties. This discrepancy highlights the necessity of tackling gender-related concerns in the educational framework as a whole to promote a more welcoming and equal learning environment for all students.

The strain on boy representation, role models, and image among young boys is another silent struggle. Boys struggle with what society expects of them in terms of appearance. Body image problems and a skewed sense of self-worth are caused by the unrealistic body ideals that are promoted by the media. Being six feet tall, having a big chest, chiseled jars, and a six-pack is seen as a real man’s fantasy. Boys are isolated in their adolescent journey by these unsaid forces.

Not only that, but it’s well established that representation matters, particularly for young people. However, the boy child lacks strong role models that exhibit empathy, vulnerability, and healthy manifestations of masculinity. Instead, they are frequently exposed to media images of hyper-masculinity and toxic behavior. Boys are deprived of varied narratives to aspire to and this lack of representation perpetuates damaging stereotypes. In contrast to the prevalent emphasis on empowering girls, boys frequently receive little support and advocacy. Few initiatives target their particular difficulties, thus they lack a safety net to help them deal with the difficulties of growing up.

 

********

This lack of discussion on the boy child’s troubles leaves a void where problems linger unaddressed. We must elevate these issues in the public conversation. Promoting the interests of boy children is not about downplaying the difficulties that girls encounter; rather, it is about calling for a more inclusive conversation that acknowledges and tackles the complex problems that impact both sexes.

 

Navigating the Path Forward

We must acknowledge the particular difficulties experienced by boy children and take appropriate measures to alleviate them as we navigate these unexplored waters. To start, this involves encouraging frank discussions about what it means to be a man, dispelling myths, and providing secure environments where boys can be themselves.

Education is essential to this path. We can enable the boy child to succeed academically and emotionally by supporting social and emotional development, offering mental health resources, and implementing inclusive curricula that accommodate a variety of learning styles. In addition, we need to push for laws and programs that put boys’ health first. Examples of these include fair access to mental health treatments, encouragement of boys to pursue higher education, and the fostering of healthy male role models in the media and society at large.

We open the door to a society that is kinder and more understanding when we recognize the unfamiliar seas that the boy child must go through. It’s time to break down the walls of silence and have candid discussions about the difficulties they encounter. We can only bring about a future where all children, regardless of gender, can flourish free from the constraints of society by raising awareness and advocating together. Let’s set a new direction and work toward a time when boys are encouraged, given authority, and given the freedom to realize their full potential.

READ MORE
Boys Without Borders celebrating 2 years of boychild advocacyFeatures

Celebrating Our 2 Years of Boy Child Advocacy: Of Our Volunteers and What We Stand For

One thing we can take from so many readings, especially those that aim to preach of a world that is in itself unfair, is that life is not particularly fair to anyone. Whether we want to take different phenomena into reality, the truth still remains that there will always be mishaps along the way. However, in this world that has so much been tagged as unfair, we, as humans, can strive to do things that would make us come close to the reality of perfection, balance, sanity, and equality.

It is this quest to bring about an active change in society, one which can pride itself on the fact that the humans that live within it, are part of the keepers of sanity and peace, that Boys Without Borders (BWB) has set out achieve. The Organisation has identified boys, their orientation, sensitisation, education, and advocacy as key ingredients in achieving a perfectly balanced society that is free of many mishaps.

The goal of raising functional men is one that BWB is committed to achieving. This is carried out without any prejudice towards the female gender. In fact, BWB is not an organisation set out to rival any female-oriented organisation. We rather aim to put the spotlight on the boys whilst claiming that though the issues raised concerning girl-child are valid, those of the boy-child are neglected and deserve to be under the perusing eyes of the society, with solutions preferred, In summary, the plights of the boy-child are very much valid, and ours is a boy child advocacy group dedicated to raising societal awareness about those plights.

For two years, BWB continued steadfastly in its aims and objectives of boy child advocacy via community outreaches, school outreaches (where boys themselves are spoken to), the organisation of public symposiums, the printing of educative pamphlets, the releasing of bi-weekly article publications called Breaking Borders, Letters to the Boy child, and Boys’ Trybe (nuggets that are uploaded on our socials). Also, there is the Boy’s Trybe HQ, an online community where gender-based trendy issues are discussed.

Having done all these, it feels just like yesterday, the stern realisation that the dust of time whizz past just after every sunrise hits everyone. Indeed, the joyous realisation that this great organisation is now in her second year of striving to achieve its goals dawns on us.

To commemorate our second year anniversary, we decided to ask our volunteers to talk about their view of the Organisation, the exciting times, their challenges, and how impactful Boys Without Borders has been as a boy child advocacy group. They have quite a lot to say.

Something About Our Founders

“I remember the words of my friend and co-founder of this organization, Solomon, when he reached out to me about joining the organization. He said, “You remember what we both discussed about the need to form a boy child advocacy organization to build a good society and thus, a better Nigeria? Bro, I believe joining Boys Without Borders will be a good step towards achieving the goal.”

The joy of contributing to building a positive society, particularly from the boy child angle, has been my driving force when undertaking any task as a member of the organization. Honestly, it has been a wonderful experience so far, having to meet and work with people I have no prior relationship with; the team vs team banters, and so on. Also, I’ve got to learn practical things that I can employ when raising a boy child in the future. I pray BWB grows stronger and better.”

(Oloruntoke Opeyemi, Assistant Team Lead, Logistics Team)

“It’s amazing how far BWB has come as an organization committed to boy child advocacy. In the words of Solomon, one of the Co-Founders, we’re making impacts, outreach by outreach, school by school, boy by boy. Being a member of BWB has helped me channel my being and resources into contributing to social good. I love how we maintain a formidable spirit online and offline. As the organization starts its 3rd journey, I hope that we have enough resources and opportunities to tap into to help us reach the heights we want to reach and make impacts as much as we would love to. Happy Birthday, BWB!”

(Theophilus Alawonde, Content Development Team)

Starting Like it is Nothing But Realising the Vision

“It’s been a beautiful journey. I started like it was no big deal. I mean, I just wanted to volunteer, and that was it. But then, after going through the Content Guidelines, I realised it was more than just volunteering but about impacting lives. I realized after my first school visitation here that the boys seemed really excited to have people come to talk to them. What we do is uncommon. I have learned, unlearned, and relearned in this journey. I wish BWB many more years to come. I love this family.”

(Adewusi Esther, Team Lead, Feedback Team)

“I never really thought I’d be this committed to the goals of the organisation as I am now. I joined because I just had always thought I will volunteer in some organisation in my undergraduate days and I wanted to build my résumé. However, upon being a member of the organisation, I realised that BWB is the Organisation that this society needs.

Growing up on the streets of Mushin, many things that society has normalised as being part of the process of simply being boys are things that harm the boy-child.

These are things that BWB has made me see. A few months ago, when I got home, a brother told me he saw my status and my posts on BWB and quizzed me if indeed boys can be raped. I said yes, and this sparked a deep conversation among the adults in my house that day. That was when I knew that truly, our work is valid at BWB. I am proud of every day that I see I am a member of this Organisation. Love, from the Agbero Team. Lol!”

(Olamilekan Mashika, Team Lead, Content Development Team)

Loving What We Do at Boys Without Borders

“It’s been a beautiful experience overall and I’m grateful for the opportunity to impact. The most exciting moments are the school visitations. I have had the opportunity to attend two, and they were fulfilling. I love what we do and I’m proud to be here, giving the boy child a voice. A challenging moment will be leading the IDBC team. Asking myself the question, “am I making sense”?… I wish BWB more impactful years and I see us going global with more solid structures.”

(Abdulmojeed Kawthar, Content Development Team)

“It’s been a really great journey for me. I’ve met some amazing people through BWB, I’m really grateful for that. BWB makes me feel good about myself for being part of this greatness. I hope the organization gets stronger and better. I’ve only been to two outreaches and I can’t even choose which excited me more, loved every moment so much.”

(Olajide Amudat, Team Lead, Finance Team)

“My experience as a member of Boys Without Borders has been nothing short of amazing! I particularly enjoyed the IDBC2022 Public Symposium on Redefining the Narrative of the Boy child, which is quite pivotal in our modern society. It has really been an impactful experience joining BWB. We keep breaking borders!”

(Dele Olátúnjí, Feedback Team)

Joy and Fulfillment

“It’s been quite lovely, to say the least. Now that’s not to liken every day as a member of BWB to a party or anything like that, but rather to highlight just how fulfilling and exciting it is to be a part of something you genuinely believe in. The thought of us making a difference is one that puts a smile on my face. It has been reasonably challenging, but that’s to be expected of anything truly worthwhile. Here’s to more amazing years at BWB. May it only get better from here on out.”

(Jucal Adedokun, Assistant Team Lead, Content Development Team)

“It’s been wonderful! I really enjoyed all the times that we had physical gatherings; every time we visited schools. I’ve also learnt about the realities of neglecting the boy child.”

(Àjàyí Deborah, Feedback Team)

Best Decisions Made

“Being a member of BWB has been one of the best things that ever happened to me in the University of Ibadan. Though, I have not really been participating in the reaching out exercises, but the pictures and feedback I’ve been receiving are quite wonderful. So far so good, I haven’t experienced any challenges. As for the impacts, I have been working really well with the Feedback Team. I have helped in writing different questionnaires for the team.”

(Ogunkanmbi Oluwatobi, Feedback Team)

“Joining BWB last year is one of the best decisions I made. I have learnt teamwork, accountability, selflessness,, and responsibility. My major challenge is not being able to attend some of the events planned, but I hope that will change this new year. As BWB turns 2, I wish all of us a wonderful celebration and more progress and impact in the society. Up and up we go!”

– (Edet Blessing, Feedback Team)

Now that all has been said, we still remain unwavering in our boy child advocacy mission – a quest to raise functional men and have a society that is balanced. A society that is proud of itself, a society free of gender-based prejudices and the stains of the repeating trendy news on social media. We will remain committed to ensuring that the community is part of the process of raising boys into functional men who are useful to society. For us, boy child advocacy is a necessity.

READ MORE