THE NARRATIVE blaming the girl child for the alleged deterioration of the boy child in Kenya is totally misplaced.
The gains that the girl child has made over the years cannot and must not be underscored or undermined on Facebook or twitter. The girl child suffrage is a terrible and painful mark in history that we women shall never forget. Where were you when the girl child was married off at the age of 8? Did you ever stand by your 11-year-old sister when your father married her off to his best friend and agemate for cows and had her kidnapped on her way from school so you could use the same cows to pay dowry?
What did your father say when the girl child was impregnated and had to drop out of school as the boy child continued with his education? He chased her away from home at night and claimed he did not want to have two wives in his house. When a family had no school fees for the children, money was raised for the boy child as the girl child stayed home to wash dishes, fetch water from the stream and herd goats. Even banks did not allow a woman to open a Bank account without her husband’s permission. Women could only get identity cards with a man’s approval and the men kept the IDs and beat them up for voting in a different candidate to Parliament.
Many people today talk from a place of privilege, entitlement and ignorance.
When our women went to Beijing in 1984, it was to claim stolen space from the girl child. And once the girl child got that space, she has never turned back. More girls have taken their education, marriage and jobs seriously, not because they are better than boys but because this freedom was hard earned and must be protected. In many cultures a woman who died before getting married could not be buried in the family land or graveyard but was thrown behind the homestead. Now a woman can buy insurance and have her body cremated.
The men who have ganged up against Margaret Ogola’s treatment of men in “The River and The Source” may not have lived in homes where women, goats, sheep and children were there to be seen and not heard. Men drunk their busaa all day as women toiled in the fields and fed the family. When a man beat his wife and broke her bones, even when she ran away to her parents, she would be sent back to him the same day with gifts. Widows were forcefully inherited by men with diseases of fire and their husband’s property snatched from them as the orphans suffered. In some scenarios they were chased away from their matrimonial homes. That’s how some of our girls ended up in Karumaindo and Sanganyinya bars to make it in life. I went to school with girls whose mothers were bar-maids and these girls sometimes came home with me for holidays because their only other option was to go and live with their mothers in a single room in a ‘Boarding and Lodging’. One confessed to me that she was already being mentored to take over her mother’s clients.
FIDA too, thank God, came to the rescue of many abused women, especially girls raped and impregnated by their father and brothers. Instead of addressing the issues at hand, our men, especially our leaders in Parliament disparaged FIDA and intimidated the girl child as she sought help. Irresponsible men started being held accountable with the help of the court and the girl child started navigating her rights to food, clothing, education and shelter.
After teaching in two separate girls’ day and boarding high schools and a mixed boarding school, I dare say that the girls worked extra hard, motivated more by the oppressions they experienced at home and fear of being disowned than by dreams for success. They often turned to boys to seek the love and pocket money they lacked from their fathers. The boys worked hard too but relaxed in the comfort that they could always go back home and inherit land, cows and other property from their fathers.
Let’s be real here. The instructed societal belief that a woman cannot lead in national exams or be president of Kenya is what made all media houses in Kenya miss the story by not covering the top boy child. Why? Because, unlike in many developed worlds, it is news in a developing world when a girl gets top marks and not a boy. Even in modern homes where great fathers give both their girls and boys equal opportunities, some boy child (s) will not succeed. The Kenyan belief is that girls belong in the kitchen and women must be controlled. This is why Kenyan men in the US and Europe are importing wives from Kenya so that they can control them. Is it possible that African men cannot handle successful women? That is a story for another day!
The girl child will continue to thrive, take it or leave it. And it will not be surprising to see women who support the narrative that women are their own worst enemies rise against the girl child in this precarious situation. The girl child must not be intimidated. The train left the station and is not about to reverse. Successful women who went through hell to become the role models they are today have taken it upon themselves to mentor the girl child. Pregnant girls can now go back to school and our lovely mothers and grandmothers don’t mind baby-sitting as we get our degrees – how about that? Women have started projects that enable the girl child to get sanitary pads and pursue their education instead of staying at home and sitting on soil to drain their menses. The women’s chamaas that the men despise so much have been a great pillar in educating the girl child and boy child abandoned by their fathers. The girl child has been able to invest in herself and the community.
The girl child can now make money, have her own bank account, fall in love with and marry the man of her choice, buy her own apartment, adopt her own children to perpetuate her parents’ family line and relocate abroad. This is what scares the boy child so much. The boy child, meanwhile has continued to glory in his genitalia, encouraged by successful men. The ancestral lands belong to the boy child so what does he have to work hard for? The girl child knows she has no place and has to fight tooth and nail with her brothers to even get a strip of her father’s land, the law regardless.
When the polygamy bill was passed in Parliament the other day, how many female members of Parliament were consulted? Who asked the girl child how she will protect herself against all the sexually transmitted diseases and HIV infection the government has authorized on her? Let the boy child focus. The school syllabus and exams are not gender oriented. The libraries stock the same books and all said and done, the girl child remains vulnerable and must continue fighting and holding that small space that the boy child wants to steal from her. The boy child opened our eyes through subjugation and oppression. If you wake a lying dog, you shall sleep yourself. The boy child is asleep right now. It is up to him to wake up. Let our men mentor our boys, let them come home at the end of day and take responsibility for their families. Let the men come home after work, have dinner with their families and help with homework. Let them take the mantle and lead by example. Let men not only appear in newspapers when the girl child or boy child has topped in national exams. They must mentor their sons.
Meanwhile, do my eyes cheat me? Is Kenyan Parliament and senate not crowded with men? Is the Speaker of Parliament not a boy child? Are not top CEOs and boardrooms crowded with men? Is the Minister for Education not a boy child? Is the IEBC chair not a boy child? Is the Chief Justice of Kenya not a boy child? Is the President of Kenya not a boy child? Is the Deputy President of Kenya not a boy child? Is the Attorney General of the Republic of Kenya not a boy child? Is the Kenya police commissioner not a boy child? Is COTU chairman not a boy child? Is the Governor of Central Bank of Kenya not a boy child? Is Raila Odinga not a boy child? Are not some of these people sons of peasants and hustlers? Did the girl child stop them from ascending to positions of power? Perhaps it’s time for women to take over leadership and make a change in how the boy child behaves.
The landscape for the girl child remains uneven in many parts of the country. Go to the rural parts of Kenya and the slums and watch. The nonsense narrative that seeks to undermine the girl child’s gains to scare her and elevate the boy child at her expense must be stopped on its path. Let the boy child’s problem, whatever it is be addressed on its own merit and not by ridiculing and intimidating the girl child. Give us space to breathe.
Disclaimer: the opinion piece in this article is that of the writer and not of Tujipange.com