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Opinions of Friday, 13 October 2017

Columnist: Ernest Senanu Dovlo

The child empowerment agenda: A sorry story of the boy child

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On 11th October, Ghana joined the rest of the world in celebrating the girl child and women at large. Do you know why it is even important for us as a people to empower girls and to a large extent women? According to the United Nations Organisation, there are 1.1 billion girls in the world, and every one of them deserves equal opportunities for a better future because they are a source of energy, power and creativity.

They can drive change and help build a better future for all. Yet, most girls face disadvantage and discrimination on a daily basis, and those living through crises are suffering even more.

The 2017 UN Women statement for International Day of the Girl Child calls for us to commit to investing in skills training and education for girls and livelihood activities for young women around the world who are facing crises. Brilliant isn't it? The question is, what is the role of the boy child in this dream that we are chasing?

The unfortunate story however is that, across the world, "empowered" girls and women are raising their voices to fight for their rights and protection in all contexts. Unfortunately most of these "freedom fighters" do not understand the course they are supposed to be championing.

The new wave feminists hiding behind rights of the girl child and women constantly declare what can best be described as an unprovoked fight for equality despite conspicuous oversight of the much needed equity. Today’s feminism fights a new and changed world with an old definition of what it means to fight for equal rights.

Fighting solely for the rights of women was relevant to the first and second wave of the movement that were staring at glaringly biased legislation and cultural values. In today’s changed world it is not only outdated, but misplaced. Maybe the question we all should be answering is, 'what is the role of the boy child in the girl child empowerment agenda?'

I happen to be a loud voice in the girl child empowerment campaign as far back as when I was in Senior High School. I still remember wearing shirts with inscriptions such as "Because I am a girl" and several other sacrifices we made at the time in championing this course. We were not abusive like most of our "freedom fighters" today are.

Again, it was an all inclusive move. I still remember our slogan and I chant it most often to inspire my female friends. It says, "Girls, let's make it happen; Boys, let's get involved". I like the look on your face now. This is the way to go. It should be an all hands on deck move without making the other party feeling threatened. Making the boy child an endangered species is certainly not the way to go because we may come back one day with this same story of empowerment in favour of the boy child.

Empowerment should be the creation of an environment for women and men alike with much more emphasis on the vulnerable. Mind you, vulnerability is not synonymous to being a girl or a woman. An environment in which all persons can make decisions of their own for their personal benefits as well as for the society. Where there will be improvement in the social, economic, political and legal strength of all persons.

Empowered persons too should have equal-rights irrespective of gender, and to make them confident enough to claim their rights, such as: to freely live with a sense of self-worth, respect and dignity, have complete control of their life, both within and outside of their home and workplace and to make their own choices and decisions among others.

It is unfortunate that society's too much focus on the girl child in turn is rapidly suffocating the boy child. There has been great neglect of the boy in society today and this is evident even on our media landscape. No news or little is reported when a boy is sodomized, abused, abandoned, mistreated or even decline their right to education. The welfare of these humans have greatly been ignored and left out in many projects as the girl child is fore grounded.

I am not in any way against women empowerment but the point is, why do we want to raise empowered wives for un-empowered husbands? Maybe the indirect message is that boys are born empowered.

I think it is time we tell some of our sisters and future wives who have become pompous in the name of women empowerment and fighting for gender equality to stop the arrogance and the unnecessary fights. What we should do instead, is to all join hands and support for better future wives and husbands.

We should empower the boy child just as we are doing for the girl child to strengthen their male counterparts as well. The silence on the neglect of the boy child is so deafening. Reports of boys joining terror gangs and terror groups fill the media space every time an attack is reported.

Have you thought of how and why well behaved and academically good boys like the recent KNUST graduate who was reported to have join ISIS came to think of joining such a dangerous group? Perhaps, that is what happens when we give all our time to empowering the girl child. Interesting isn't it?
How many more of our young men do we want to lose before we realise that enough is enough and we have to stand up and protect this species of humans that is slowly degrading out of our own ignorance and some immeasurable ego.

Maybe I am talking too much without making sense and it is time I end this talk. Both genders need to be empowered for the success of society and country. An introduction to an article by Chris Good titled 'Why Feminism Is NOT ‘The Fight for Equal Rights,’ beautifully captures something I can't say better, let me share that with you.

He says, "Perhaps one of the first -and most frustrating- arguments one might encounter when entering into the gender equality debate, especially in criticism of feminism, is that the feminist movement is one that is dedicated to equality in our society.

While on one side, those fighting for the awareness of diminished men’s rights are asserting that feminism is the cause of a new imbalance between the sexes, it is common to encounter the feminist voice on blogs, in books, comics and in articles claiming that feminism is the best representation of a move toward equality. Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, it can be difficult to respond effectively to such a stubborn and misguided claim. Why do feminists believe the movement is the fight for equality?

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