By: Omotooyosi Olaoye

Image Credit: Daily Monitor

Initially, I wanted to make the topic of this write up a question; “Is the Boy-child being neglected?”, but I changed my mind, because I know for a fact that the boychild is being neglected, and it was just right that I spell it out.

I recently made a friend through a Clubhouse room, and when we got talking, he made mention of the fact that it was “the boy child advocate” which I included in my bio that fascinated him, and prompted him to reach out. It would not be a wild guess if I made the assumption that he probably would not have reached out if I had kept “girl child advocate” in my bio because truly, it would not have been something out of the ordinary. However, it is important to note that this write up is not for a boy vs girl debate and I would not make it such.

The encounter with this new friend from Clubhouse made me remember a time in secondary school when a child-empowerment initiative came to my school. When it was time for them to speak to us, they announced that boys usually appear strong and independent and as such, they do not need to attend the session. It wasn’t until the principal intervened and declared that they either speak to all of us or leave that they changed their stance. Most times, I wonder how many schools that particular initiative had visited before mine, and how many boys they’d shut out from their so-called child-empowerment sessions.

Truths are meant to be honest, right? The honest truth is that the boychild continues to be sidelined, and as this continues to be the norm, the cycle will keep repeating itself. The cycle of us having uncouth men, forever blameful men or men who justify their bad acts.

In the negligence of the boy child, everyone plays a role. The laws, society in general, schools, parents, females and also males. Laws are doing less in their favour. We have seen globally — through the United Nations or some legislations from different countries — that gender imbalance is created because the large chunck of attention is directed towards the girl-child. From a pure lack of the government’s support, to society losing focus through a diminishing perspective about boys, the boy-child is becoming invisible — the future man is being completely removed out of the picture. For example: Gender Based Violence (GBV) advocates do not take boychild issues as seriously as they should. Recently, I was casually reading through a book that was centered around GBV and out of 100 pages of the book, only about 15 pages were dedicated to addressing the issues of the boychild.

Parents also play a huge role in the negligence of the boychild. You see parents giving “the talk” to their female children only, and expecting the boychild to just figure things out on his own.

Many try to justify this negligence by stating that all these are happening because we live in a patriarchal world. Yes, perhaps we do live in a patriarchal world, but most importantly, we need to understand the fact that the boychild is a child and just as any child, he needs and deserves our attention.

It is quite saddening that the loath towards men in general, a sentiment which is wrong in itself, is now also being directed at the boychild, further amplifying the negligence.

We can do better. The challenges that the boychild faces in today’s world, especially in the emerging world, do not receive as much attention and focus as is necessary to resolve their plight. Again, this is not a boy vs girl debate, but let’s address reality. The disparity between the attention being given to the girl-child in comparison to the boychild is really wide and alarming. Every now and then, an initiative centered around girl-child empowerment is being formed but same can’t be said regarding the boychild. Even initiatives that are into general child empowerment tend to focus more on the girlchild. This disparity needs to be corrected. In our effort to agitate for gender equality, we should not focus just on the girl-child, forgetting the inequalities the boychild now faces.

A video recently went viral, where a demonstration was held against a teacher at a secondary school who was accused of raping a 19-year-old male pupil: https://twitter.com/neweranewspaper/status/1357571289767174146?s=21. The sad but important thing there was that more females were seen demonstrating against this issue than males. The boychild has been sidelined for so long that men can’t even fight for something that concerns their own gender. For this, I want to touch on the importance of having men actively working on the boychild empowerment. The boychild already has it hard trying to open up and showing his vulnerability, so, we can’t fathom the amount of positive impacts it will have on him, seeing men actively working on the betterment of the boychild.

The fact that the male suicide rate is far higher than that of females but less talked about clearly shows there is something we are not doing right. Let’s talk about rape incidents too. There are many boys out there getting raped by both males and females, but society has made it seem as if the boychild is immune to rape. “He’s a man, how can he be raped?” These kind of questions destroy the very fibre in our vocal chords which enables us to speak up and out about it. At the police station, they laugh and ridicule you for even having the thought of reporting that you have been raped by a woman. Having more people, particularly men, actively participate in the advocacy and empowerment of the boychild will play a huge role in bridging the gap between the attention given to the girl child, as against the boychild.

Cultism, drug abuse, sexual assaults, armed robbery amongst others are getting out of hand in this country. We need to do better for our boys. We are neglecting the boychild, and there are serious future negative consequences for this. In the very legitimate and much-needed charge of empowering women and girls, we should not solve one problem by slowly creating another. The boychild needs some love too and we, as a society, need to show him love.

Another important factor is education. Are we really doing enough to educate the boychild on the good and evil of society as we do with the girlchild? We keep working on telling girls that it’s wrong for them to be hit and raped. Are we sure our boys know that it is wrong for them to sexually assault someone and for them to be sexually assaulted too?
Again, if we keep neglecting the boychild, the cycle will keep repeating itself and deteriorate even more.

They need a channel to speak up too, and we as a society need to work more on providing them that channel.

Let’s stop neglecting the boy child and leaving him to his “masculinity”.