Nigerian male child should be given attention too –Okoro, gender advocate

Nigerian male child should be given attention too –Okoro, gender advocate

Creating an environment where the girl child is nurtured by non-governmental organisations and gender advocates for excellence towards leadership positions and becomes a superwomen is a worthy course but focusing on the girl child alone, while leaving the boys entirely to their fate is becoming a major source of concern in modern Nigeria.

The big issue, therefore, is that, when the girl child is fully nurtured and she ends up marrying a boy child that was not so well nurtured, it leads to sharp rise in the rate of domestic violence and divorce, breaking homes and causing all manner of problems in society.

In a chat with Daily Sun recently, Mrs. Viola Okoro, a gender advocate and founder of Leadership Foundation for African Girl Child and Women, proffered suggestions on how to bridge this yawning gender gap.

You are in the business of teaching the girl child all she needs to become a superwoman by acquiring leadership qualities; what about the state of boys, what becomes of them after raising super-girls and how do they cope in relationships?

Actually, it is a place of concern because everybody’s attention is drawn to the girl child and it is going to be a big issue when the girl child is fully nurtured and she ends up marrying a boy child that was not so well nurtured. It will surely increase domestic violence and the rate of divorce, invariably breaking homes and causing all manner of problems in the society.

Although some women are trying to do something for the boy child, I think men should also rise up and do something for the boy child. In our culture, it is believed that the boys have better platforms.

Why do they think boys have better platforms while growing up?

When a boy is born, he becomes an automatic leader. Attention is given to him for training. They leave the girl child and concentrate on training the boy, believing that the girl child is ultimately another man’s property. 

That gap is almost gone because there is no home today where preference is given to only male children to go to school, including in the South-West and South-South, so, what is your position on this?

Yes, the gap is closing up now because of the fight. And you are not seeing it because most of the boys not going to school are not even ready to go to school. If there is competition between the boys and girls and the boys are strong enough to withstand it, you will see what I am talking about.

How did you come to that conclusion?

When you check the level of school dropouts, you will see that a lot of boys fall into that category, especially after leaving secondary school.  Some of them are not able to continue because of distractions or because no one is guiding them like they do to the girl child.

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Of course, everyone believes that the girl child is the one who has issues and, if not properly guided, she will find it difficult to stand. But by so doing, the boy child is neglected. So, when they are confronted with their own challenges, they remain in them because many people don’t even notice. By the time it is noticed, it is too late to do what is necessary. 

So, it appears that we have higher levels of boys dropping out of school when we get to the tertiary stage than girls.

You said girls oftentimes don’t drop out of school as much as boys because they have guardians and people are more interested in their growth, but some NGOs merely pay lip service to girl child advocacy. What do you make of that?

Actually, you may be right, but it is the same thing everywhere. In every place, there are the good and the bad. Some people pay lip service to their challenges, while others are in serious advocacy. While growing up, I still maintain that boys do not get equal attention with girls because of oversight and our belief system that boys don’t have as many challenges. That era has passed without parents and the system noticing it and doing what is appropriate for them to do.

Should I take your word to the bank that the ratio of boys out of school is more than girls?

Certainly, not in that manner, but I am talking about the tertiary stage because, when they finish secondary school and face challenges, they don’t have enough guidance. This is when they actually face their challenges because it is a time of discovery.

Then, when proper attention is not being given to them, no one is able to guide and direct them at that time, they would then make some decisions that may not help them in life or that might make them not enjoy the career they may choose.

Women have broken the glass ceiling and are occupying leadership positions worldwide. In your view, what is left for women to achieve in today’s world?

There is a whole lot. Women have not maximized their potential. Women are builders. They build homes, societies and nations. Without women, there is no peace. And there is no peace in the world today because women are left behind. 

Is it that they have not maximized their potential or that they have become so busy officially and abdicated their traditional duties so much so that their homes are being neglected?

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Women did not leave the home. There was never a time they left the home. All they wanted was to get the home better, but the challenge was they couldn’t create a balance.

Sometimes, you find out that there is no cooperation from within. What is wrong if a man does not have a good job but can take care of the home and the woman is professionally sound and does a good job while the man takes care of the kids? The woman then makes the money and the whole family will enjoy it and live happily. What is wrong with that? 

This family scenario you painted does not function in our kind of society and is quite alien to us.

Yes, of course, our society does not operate that way.

From your presentation, you seem to be challenging the norms. If your father were to tell you, ‘I was home all the years you were growing up while your mother was busy working so the entire family could enjoy,’ what would you tell him?

There is something we should understand: I keep telling parents with children that, while we feed our kids with golden spoons and we eat with wooden spoons how do we think it can work? When you feed your child with a golden spoon, you should also eat with a golden spoon so that you can speak the same language and so that the children, too, can understand you. 

All these issues of feminism are not for the old generation because they are already formed. It is for the new generation who are exposed to a world that has a global system, who are supposed to embrace the change.

In our parents’ generation, the society functioned well. Schools functioned well. There were slots for scholarships, free tuition educational system and automatic jobs for qualified candidates. A lot of things were put in place such that both parents didn’t necessarily have to slug it out in offices to put food on the table.  The environment was safe and secure. Mothers could afford to stay at home taking care of children while fathers were working in a system that was organized.  That is history now. Fathers cannot even earn enough because the system is so demanding that both must sweat it out to make something meaningful. It is unfortunate.

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