In recent decades, Kenya has put significant attention towards the plight of the girl child through several programmes aimed at giving girls an equal footing in society with their male counterparts.
Talk of fight against teenage pregnancies, early marriages, improved school enrolment and transition to secondary school; the girl child has been at the forefront of many government policies as they are seen as the weaker and vulnerable gender and incapable of defending themselves.
All these have been done with the aim of giving the girl child a voice in a society that has been accused of having been more favourable to the boy child since time immemorial.
Nonetheless, the deliberate move to correct a historical injustice where the girl child has for years suffered marginalisation has instead resulted in another monumental catastrophe in the society: the neglect of the boy child.
With the unfounded belief that men or boys are naturally strong and do not need to be given a voice by anyone, the boy child has in the process been left to grapple with modern life challenges in solitude.
The over protection of the girl child instead of achieving the desired gender equity, has created a new problem in the society that is now a ticking time bomb.
The exclusion of the boy child by the government and the society at large is the focus of a new book co-authored by William Kingori and Jane Mugo.
In Caged: The Cry of a Boy Child, the two authors lay bare the neglect of the boy child packing a story touching on their plight.
According to the book, the continued exclusion of the boy child in gender equality campaigns has created a population at a crossroads grappling with crime, low self-esteem, violence, truancy and drug abuse with Kenyan young men now the weaker sex.
With many odds stuck against the boy child than is thought, the society is gradually losing them due to several factors like absentee and irresponsible fathers, lack of mentorship and little attention accorded to the boy child.
These problems later graduate with the boys when they become men, manifesting themselves in failed marriages, dysfunctional families, and gender-based violence cases witnessed in the society with single parent families being on the rise.
The absence of a father-figure in a boy’s life comes with major consequences like behavioural problems, poor mental health, attachment trauma, dropping out of school, promiscuity, crime, anger, low self-esteem, negative behavior, lack of responsibility, and substance abuse.
This as fathers have an important role to play in the life of boys helping in his education, relationship with girls, preventing criminal behavior, helping in emotional stability among others.
The two authors posit that a lack of parental guidance, love and attention are the major reasons pushing teenagers to contemplate suicide with suicide being the second leading cause of death among young people aged between 10 and 35 years old.
The book avers that suicide among young people is on the rise and has become more rampant among the youth with the majority of the cases happening amongst youth in primary, high schools, colleges and universities.
This is because adolescence is a time of sexual identity and relationships and a need for independence that often conflicts with the rules and expectations set by others.
“When a young person commits suicide, it is a cry for help as they are drowning in their pain and trauma with no perceivable way out,” they say.
Mr Kingori and Ms Mugo explain that young people going through major life changes like parents’ divorce, parental separation, financial changes and those who are bullied are at a greater risk of suicidal thoughts.
“Youth are ill-equipped to handle the rapidly changing demands that life throws at them and are increasingly looking at suicide as an easy way out.”
Ms Mugo says the book mainly looks into boys’ issues, challenges they go through and probable vices they could be exposed to with the society hardly giving the boy child any attention, leaving them to suffer in silence.
This is in addition to highlighting the importance of including the boy child when it comes to handling societal issues while also offering life skills to guide the teens more so boys in achieving their dreams and encouraging them to speak up.
“We are sharing solutions bringing the information closer to these young adults and advising parents to be there for them as well and stop assuming they are men enough.”
The little attention paid to the boy child, the authors explain, is also behind the increase in the number of boys dropping out of school, surging crime rate with the highest number of individuals behind bars mostly consisting of young men as well as an alarming menace of drug and substance abuse.
“If we continue ignoring the challenges boys face, we will soon be in a situation where we were with girls several years ago,” the authors point out.
Despite the challenges, the authors reckon that all is not lost and the boy child can be salvaged from the confining and confusing world they currently find themselves in.
This is through imparting good values into them right from when they are young, being present in their lives, instilling good work ethic and giving them affection just like girls to be emotionally stable, instilling peer resistant decision making skills, among others.
“Learning does not come from school and books alone. It comes from life experience and mentoring too.”
The book goes for Sh500 and is available through 0725339527 and 0723615571.