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Did you know that 16 May 2020 was celebrated as the International Day of the Boy Child, also known as International Boys’ Day? On 22 January 2018, Dr Jerome Teelucksingh from Trinidad and Tobago in the Carribbean sent a letter to government leaders and NGOs calling for the inaugural observance of this particular day to celebrate and acknowledge the boy child.
Sadly, many of us didn’t even know that a few days ago the boy child was supposed to be celebrated. It didn’t make the headlines. The pandemic didn’t stop us from honouring our mothers on Mother’s Day. God forbid! I can bet that if 11 October comes and we are still under lockdown, International Day of the Girl Child will be fully acknowledged and the hashtag is most likely to trend.
This is not a comparison.
Nevertheless, it looks like the boys are invisible and forgotten. They are overlooked and sidelined, yet the whole world is suffering from gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide as well as many other forms of crimes committed by the boy child.
We keep on putting the boy child in the back seat. Nobody is saying anything about it. We hardly celebrate the boy child. We could have celebrated the boy child and reminded him of how good he is. When the opportunity to bash them and condemn their actions arises, we are quick to rally behind social media hashtags and continue to castigate them.
We all know that the toxicity of masculinity is out of hand. We are all aware that boys are bullying and some were even convicted for murdering their teachers at school. They are filling our prison cells for different kinds of crimes.
Interesting enough, we are expecting our society to have better men. We demand men to be progressive and be great.
But how does that happen when we fail to celebrate and acknowledge the goodness in the boy child, just for a day? How do boys become better men in the future if they are not assured, affirmed and reminded that they are good? That there is something to celebrate about them too?
Fixing the power struggles, patriarchy and toxic masculinity cannot only be fixed through chastise, rebuke, reprimand and shun. However, that is all we do to them. It is heartbreaking.
We approach the crisis of the boy child with a top-to-bottom approach, meaning we want to expect better men in our society yet we do nothing to empower the boys to be better men.
With this approach we have adopted, I can tell you now we are far from eradicating GBV, femicide, toxic masculinity and patriarchy. We can only win the war if we stop; even if it is for a day to celebrate the success and positives of boys.
It is needless of me to remind our society that these very boys are the men of the near future.
Freelance writer Clementine Fords argues: “I often hear from parents that they’re frightened of having girls in the world. We know what violence can be done to our daughters, and people on the whole seem desperate to find a solution to this. Curiously, this search for solutions has yet to include looking at ways to change the behaviour of boys.
“Instead, we see general pleas to recognise the humanity of girls and women by positioning them in relation to men.”
We don’t recognise the humanity of boys to ensure that they start to see and embrace the good in them.
As Dr Teelucksingh puts it: “We must not allow the continued imbalance of the gender scale. We cannot ignore that without a focus on the boy child and the girl child; gender equality is not a reality.”
To every son, boy child out there, A belated Happy International Day of the Boy Child to you.
Some of us see you, recognise you and acknowledge you wholly. I hope next year our society, and particularly the media, will recognise you.
Kabelo Chabalala is the founder and chairperson of the Young Men Movement (YMM), an organisation that focuses on the reconstruction of the socialisation of boys to create a new cohort of men. Email, email@example.com; Twitter, @KabeloJay; Facebook, Kabelo Chabalala
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