I met Moses Njoroge in the company of a very good friend of mine for coffee early this month to brainstorm on a totally different conversation, away from the boy child issue. It happened that along the light moments, he mumbled to have been organising a forum that was to bring together male professionals of the town (Nanyuki) to a meeting meant for purely networking. I quickly interjected, asking him why it was meant for exclusively male professionals. He immediately gave a brilliant answer that hadn’t caught my mind for this long.
“Men only meet in clubs for beer and to watch football. They are unlike women who have chamaas and other informal gatherings where they share and empower themselves.”
I listened as those prudent observations penetrated deep inside my heart and to the bone marrow. They played repeatedly rhythmically for some minutes. The faster they oscillated the more naive I assumed to have been. It was a fact, we, the gender that worships ego hasn’t found it imperative to empower each other. It perhaps sounds feminine, and weak and too metrosexual for men to empower each other; isn’t? But aren’t these thoughts misleading? I tell you what! Far too many men are dying from premature deaths out of stress related illnesses which could have been solved if only we reached to each other for help and advice.
Moses was coming in to feel this void that very few notice or get bothered about. He was here to create a springboard to motivate us and a vessel to air our frustrations and worries and in the process benefit from a platform where, being listened to becomes healing in itself.
In fact the many times men go out to clubs, it is mainly about catching up and talking about biashara (business). Actually, we talk for two minutes, stick to our phones for the next one hour. We drool at the curvy lasses, drink the cold beer, laugh mildly over a funny meme shared on whatsapp and get back to our phones for a whole one more hour. That’s what we call catching up! It has nothing to do with the hard surface stuff that bothers us. We never open up, not even to our friends. As men, we are wired to soldier on kama wanaume (like gentlemen). Men are supposed to be bravery and not cowed by life challenges; we assume.
But there is more than meets the eye.
At least this is what I found out when we met last Friday. To start with, I have never been in such a forum that has men only in attendance speaking about empowerment and rewriting history. Here were male professionals from all walks of life from lawyers, teachers, fashion designers, young entrepreneurs, journalists, mentors, aspiring politicians, accountants and many others, keen to decipher and write solutions to issues regarding the contemporary boy child. And in order to empower each other, we had to take an inside – out approach. That way, we were in a position to appreciate history, table the facts, predict the future going by the statistics and come up with realistic solutions.
This is what I found out;
For most us, we are struggling with big time baggage acquired along the treacherous trajectory of progressing from boy to man. From the looks of things, we haven’t shed off stereotypes and perceptions instilled in us, since our childhood years. In any case, that kind of thinking has hardened and grown roots. For instance, if you grew in an environment where your mother was always battered by your dad; if your father was a philanderer; if he was always found in the trenches drunk and unconscious; you are more likely to end up like him. What ends up in our subconscious mind is tough to neutralise. It’s in fact worse when one is brought up in unstable family set up.
Why do we have more cases of husbands being extremely brutal to their wives? Why do we have more cases of men succumbing to cheap liquor addiction? Why are men dying premature deaths from chronic illnesses? One fact seems to address these questions. Nobody along the childhood path, not even our dads, uncles nor grandfathers warned us or rather advised us that during our adult life, we will be dealing with an extremely empowered woman who knows her rights; who is financially independent and more ambitious than her mother. See, the contemporary man still has the same archaic thinking mindset he bequeathed from his dad or the men he watched while growing up from his village. Unfortunately his female counterpart has in fact embraced new ways of approaching life far different from her mum. She is dynamic, competitive, a go getter, fearless, unbowed, educated, intelligent, self-aware, socially balanced and a dreamer. She wants to buy land within the first two years of employment if not earlier through a chamaa, to drive by 28, to take a business loan by 30, to have that PHD by 33 and to quit employment by 35.
If lucky enough to find an equally organised and ambitious man, she will settle down. But don’t be fooled, it won’t matter anyway since it is nowhere near her prime priorities. The contemporary woman is not intimidated by family expectations of settling down by the time she is 28. Unlike man, who will literally stop everything including life to at least get a partner and then signal God; “we can move on now” – the woman is having none of that. Men value marriage and kids and coming home to meet a homely house with dinner prepared and kids crying or jumping over him saying “Baba umeniletea nini?” (Dad what have you brought me?). Men admire driving their family to church or other social places like weddings or shopping and being addressed as father of two charming boys. They treasure such kind of a system where they are looked up to and celebrated as the supreme beings of the family.
Unfortunately, that reality is fast fading and replaced with an alternative that is not begging for acceptance. The contemporary woman is willing to bring something to the table too. She is earning more, spending less and investing wisely.
Was man prepared for this?
Who is he blaming for his current woes?
What are the statistics insinuating?
We shall find out in the next article.
Watch out for PART TWO of A GATHERING OF THE BOY CHILD.