Kenya: More Empowerment Programs For Girls? What About The Boys?

Kenya and indeed the rest of the world have been active in creating and implementing programs and policies aimed at uplifting the status of the girl child. The bulk of  gender mainstreaming and empowerment programs  have been based on the fact that the boy child has everything going easy for him and thus the girl child requires some little ladder in order to be able to compete favorably with the men. The whole genius behind the idea is that with time Kenya will be able to realize gender equity.

Some special seats were created in parliament specifically for women, work place policies continue to be skewed towards the female gender and even the education system has provisions for the vulnerable girl child. Granted, traditionally girls have bore the brunt of disadvantages. Some have been forced to skip school during that time of the months that they get their periods. Others have been disadvantaged because of early marriages, teenage pregnancies, their homely roles such as fetching water for the family, cooking among others. It’s not in doubt that because of such, they require to be taken care of well. There is need for more girls to able to access education opportunities and to get decent pay for decent work. There is need for them to be protected from discrimination and degrading of their dignity. There is definitely need for gender empowerment.

However, discussions on gender must not be about girls and women. For a truly transformative agenda, both parties’ interests must be taken into consideration. There’s the risk of entrenching system inequalities by focusing on one gender at the expense of the other. As such, any attempts at uplifting the station of the girl child must not deliberately create hurdles for the boy child. Through this approach successes will be quantitative as opposed to be qualitative.

There’s grave danger that in a jubilee, efforts will now be geared towards empowering the boy child to match the girls who would have surpassed them.

It is therefore important that planners and implementers are not carried away by the zeal to fix the current situation that they end up creating a bigger hole. This is like a man who talks mud from one house to fix the crevices in another house. While one house will be sealed and good looking, the other house will be at the brink of collapse. Will the man then take mud from the other house to fix his other house?

Are we as a nation transforming the attitudes of boys or are we more interested in statistics and numbers of school enrolment, completion and number of public leaders by gender? Are we building the capacity of men to be involved in important discussions such as family planning, domestic violence or are we more interested in nurturing a competitive society that is defragmented by gender?

Yes, the patriarchal nature of society demands that we address the issue of the girl child who has traditionally suffered as the ‘weaker’ sex but it must not be at the expense of the boy.

Article 27 of our constitution asserts that men and women have a right to equal treatment; including the right to equal opportunities in political, economic cultural and social spheres and that the state or individuals should not discriminate against a person based on sex.

An abridged version of The article was published by the Star Newspaper  13th October 2013.

ROBERT ASEDA is the Partnerships and Policy Officer at the Network for Adolescents and Youth of Africa-Kenya Chapter, a youth led advocacy network that does sexual and reproductive health and rights advocacy. He has a BSc. Population Health from Kenyatta University. He has undergone training on budget advocacy, policy advocacy and media advocacy by Planned Parenthood Global and Choice for Youth and Sexuality of the Netherlands. He has been involved in the ICPD process and is currently the chairman of the National Youth Consortium on the POST2015 Development Agenda comprising of young people from organizations working in the area of sexual and reproductive health and rights in Kenya. He is also a radio personality, a creative blogger, poet and a regular contributor to local dailies in Kenya. Connect with him on twitter: @Varaq

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