It’s often said that it’s through deeds that you put any one person to the test. If deeds were absent, there would be no laid down parameters to judge the level of truthfulness of any claimed ability or capability. The absence of deeds as a judging parameter will allow a certain tall young man lay claims to a supposed ability to shoot at women and not miss, when in fact, he has not fired one shot.
Boys Without Borders has been in advocacy for the boychild for close to a year; our awareness and sensitization on issues as they affect the boychild have found their way to the internet and before your eyes. You might have learnt — that boys are raped and sexually molested, that every child should be allowed to live their childhood as a child, that families should pay equal attention to raising their children.
Prior to 14 May, we had been in action, but we had not been in physically visible action. The weekend of the 2021 International Day of the Boychild remains an important milestone for us an organization — it served as our coming-of-age day, if you could call it that.
Friday, 14 to Sunday, 16 May were all shades of colour and experience for our boychild advocates, and in the succeeding paragraphs, you will journey with some of them on what and how the Boys Without Borders’ celebration of the #IDBC2021 affected them. In paragraphs to come, you will come face-to-face with raw experience: you’ll smile, you’ll nod in approval, you’ll marvel in awe, and your mind will continually venture on a journey of visualization. For we went, we saw, and we impacted!
Solomon Idowu: Fired Up for the Boychild-Advocacy Marathon after the BWB IDBC 2021 Experience
The past few months for me have been a ride — from school resumption, to a series of training, to skill development, but the most eventful in that period would be planning and executing the events Boys Without Borders had for the International Day of the Boychild 2021. We had three major events to commemorate that period: a school visitation, a public symposium and a community outreach. I did learn a lot in that 3-day span, as I had the opportunity to speak to boys, guardians and members of communities to orientate them and to also listen to seasoned experts in the field of boychild advocacy.
However, I’d like to share one key lesson I got. At our visit to Loyola College, a boy asked me this question which I paraphrase as “If we are out to create gender equality as an organization because girls are being focused on, isn’t us focusing solely on the boychild being against that goal as it could seem gender-biased?”
I went on to explain to him that boychild advocacy is not created to be in competition with girlchild advocacy or solely because girlchild advocacy exists. We advocate for the boychild at BWB because yes, boys need attention; they need guidance; they need to be heard and listened to; something not adequately addressed in today’s society. Our speakers at the public symposium, Mr. Ola Akinwe and Mr. Ayodele Solomon, further went ahead to buttress this by making these respective statements “Boys will become boys according to the examples they see,” “Boys will not just be boys, boys will become what they are trained and groomed to be.”
The boychild needs attention, guidance, positive examples and training. I’m glad BWB is taking this step and I can’t wait for others to join us on this ride. As Solomon Ayodele said, “This journey is not a sprint, but a marathon”, so buckle up, there is still a long way to go.
Precious Akinmoyeje: Resolute in His Decision to Raise Boys into Functional Men after the IDBC 2021 Experience
A wise man once said, “participation, is the fastest route to experience” (alright, no one said that: I just came up with it). Well, they definitely did say that experience is the best teacher. Based on that, let me share with you what IDBC 2021 taught me. You can never tell; you may pick some lessons too.
2021, for me, has been quite full of activities (both significant and otherwise). However, IDBC2021 — the experience and the challenges — stands atop that ladder of significance. Personally, it was a period of affirmations, reiterations, bonding, and learning a whole lot of things. Due to the importance of the few things I picked up, I am positive it would be selfish not to share it out there with others. So, here goes:
It’s not Naiveté, there is Objectivity and then Solution
This is a reiteration of something I learnt earlier on when I decided to be part of the Boys Without Border NG. Yes! there is a solution to gender-based social problems and yes! I am not naive to think so. Just so you know, the BWB approach is simple and fundamental — teach the kids (boys in this case) how to live a functional life and watch them grow into responsible people.
The world around us — as we have grown to see it — is evolving in its ideology. We have had to come to terms with the reality of different social problems and the role of distinct genders in this reality (by genders, I mean male and female). Also, from the way I see it, there seems to be a kind of polarity in the current approach to finding a solution. Quite disturbingly for me, each side of this gender-based gulf seems to have solid reasons to hold on to its bias. There is the modern-day social-media feminism, the guys with a new brand of patriarchy, and there is me — a guy that tries to make sense of it all.
I had previously found out that the best way would be to educate the (stereotyped) perpetrators of these acts when they are still tender. The International Day for the Boychild further strengthened my resolve and the tenacity with which I will hold on to that solution. And, yeah! Instead of continually circling around the solution with our blame-game strategy, why not give this approach a trial?
No! Gender Advocacy is not (supposed to be) a Battle
This lesson is basic and similar to the previous one. However, we often get carried away in the heat of the moment that we lose sight of this basic truth. Solomon Ayodele said that “The issue of rape is not a ‘No but’ conversation, it is a ‘Yes and’ conversation.” Gender-based advocacy is not a versus battle. The goal — I believe — is to solve a common problem. The enemy is not (supposed to be) the men or the women; it should rather be the problem we are all trying to solve. If we all take this stand, it would go a long way to hasten the journey to the solution (Damn! Did I just sound like a preacher?).
The Problem is Still out There
This is a friendly reminder that no matter how many gender-motivated intellectual arguments we engage in on social media, the problem still exists out there. Our social media is a tiny fraction of reality. Sometimes, it is a totally alternate reality. While we are on Twitter arguing patriarchy and feminism and what they should be, there is a boy in Mokola, Oshodi, Ojuelegba, or Beere that doesn’t know what it means to respect women. Social media has created a kind of class gap that makes us see the problem in a different light. The basic things like sexual abuse and what it entails, equality, boundaries and respect are totally foreign concepts to a lot of people on the streets.
At the BWB IDBC community outreach, I met with a lot of people (mostly young boys and teenagers) that find the concept of boundaries and sexual abuse funny. Some really still think it is ridiculous to say that boys can be victims of abuse. Oh, now you see that there is a lot of work to do. Summarily, I learnt that it is important that we don’t get disconnected from these truths if we really intend to achieve any meaningful change.
Surround Yourself with People that Vibe with Your Goals
Let’s move away from the gender ish, shall we? It is important that you surround yourself with people that vibe with your goals. By “vibe”, I mean people that believe in that goal and are willing to go the extra mile to achieve it. Well, this is a solid reiteration, you probably have heard that before. Here is why I am repeating:
I was a little bit involved in the planning for the IDBC 2021, and the goals of the organization required a hulk-sized amount of money compared to our finances. There was really no morneeyy on ground. Despite that, we still managed to pull something reasonable off. That is because of people. The group of people at BWB and some other lovely individuals, worked together to pull off something really beautiful. Personally, I have learnt to value relationships and hold on to good ones very dearly, you too can do the same.
I am very grateful for meeting the guys at Boys Without Borders (particularly my spider squad; if you are reading this, I see you!). I am grateful for the things we have done together. I am grateful for the bigger things that we would still accomplish. I believe in the mission of Boys Without Borders; I believe in advocacy; I believe in solutions. I am not a preacher of war; I am peace; a vibe; and I’m Spiderman (inserts cool emoji).
John Dare Okafor: Saw the Need for Societal Awareness at the IDBC 2021, and There’s no Going Back!
During our BWB community outreach on Sunday, we were about to round off when I saw this hairdresser working on a client’s hair. I approached her and we began talking. I told her about the importance of that day (May 16; the International Day of the Boychild), among other things.
I also talked to her about house chores and the need for including the boychild. I remember her eyes lit up. She shared her concerns with me about her 6-year-old son. She told me of how he goes out to play during cooking hours and whenever he finds himself in the kitchen, he asks “irrelevant” questions about what an ingredient is called and the reason why it’s used, which is one of the reasons she’s not bothered when she doesn’t find him in the kitchen.
I asked her if she has a female daughter. Her response was in the affirmative; an older daughter. I further asked if her daughter was already cooking at the current age of her son. She again responded in the affirmative. I then asked why she doesn’t see it as a need that her son also learns how to cook.
She was speechless. I brought to her notice how she has neglected the curiosity of her son in wanting to understand how to cook by tagging it “irrelevant”. I further orientated her on how cooking is not gender-based, but an essential skill for every human, and the need to start including her boy in kitchen activities and also encourage him by answering his questions.
I’m glad she was able to see things in another light. She promised to put it to work when gets home.
This made me realize the importance of orientation and sensitization, not only to boys but also to parents, because finding a solution to an age-long social misconstruction is not one-sided, and I’m glad BWB is undertaking that task.
Theophilus Femi Alawonde: Wowed by and Contented with the IDBC 2021 Experience
I live mostly in my self-constructed shell of aversion to communal communication, but many BWB members will find this hard to believe. Here’s why: as reserved as I am, I’ve found it relatively easy to relate to and bond with people who have interests in a cause I’m deeply interested in. The moment I got the memo for BWB — that day when John shared his vision with me, I knew I was willing and going to commit to it.
We have come a long way: from the initial plans, to having a content guideline, to the #BoysTalkAboutIt campaign, to our #Letterstotheboy. Many of the things we’ve done have seen us work in the background to push out messages to boys, guardians and trainers of boys, and the society at large. The idea of commemorating the International Day of the Boychild, as pleasing to the ears as it was, brought a bagful of well-founded doubts: how could we possibly make impact at Loyola within an hour? That was the most important question I kept asking myself, because to me, it’s not about going out; it’s not fully about having pictures for the gram (yeah, I know you saw our pictures), but chiefly about how well we would impact those we planned on reaching out to.
The symposium set the pace for the blessedness that BWB’s commemoration of the IDBC 2021 was. The words, experience and thoughts of Solomon Ayodele gave me multiple messagegasm, that I had to take to my WhatsApp status one but many times. Solomon Ayodele’s words affirmed some of the things I’ve always believed gender-wise, they also put into perspective what we’re in for, with experience shared from the field. Like I told John one time, BWB is not a UI-thing, and I’m sure he knows that now. It’s a marathon, and we’re running it.
At the centre of any advocacy should be the most affected, and that’s why our outreach to Loyola College remains my most memorable of all the BWB IDBC 2021 events. At the outreach, I saw yet again, how passion transforms. John stole the day, and that’s not even arguable. A day to, we were prepared but not convinced enough we were prepared. We run put our facilitators to the test; it’s one hour, and we must make an impact!
We arrived at Loyola College, and one hour turned to 30 minutes. Despite this, we made an impact. I saw John — soft-spoken and equally reserved as I am — fierily take the boys through much-neglected topics; sex education, sex abuse and sexual consent. I saw him engage the boys, I saw him improvise, code-mix, demonstrate, burn, just to pass the message to the boys. I saw him excite them, and sober them up, and I saw boys listen attentively, to things they had always been forbidden to listen to.
I strongly believe and preach sex education; we consider many sexual things a taboo in this part of the world, and it’s all laced in hypocrisy. Because sex, penis, vagina and related words have become “Things-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named”, children are left to their curiosity to learn vital things. It’s why there are many teenage parents out there; curious explorers who were only told the importance of abstinence but never told the necessity for condoms, should they disobey. Telling teenagers to abstain from sex without lacing the message with the importance of using condoms is like an ostrich running to hide — its head buried in sand and the bulk of its body in open glare. That you talk about condoms doesn’t mean all your children will go about exploring with condoms, and that you choose not to talk about it doesn’t make you wise — the children that would explore would explore unprotected, because you never deemed it fit to lecture them. I’m glad John touched on this issue and got the boys to get out of socially-constructed shells of muteness, shyness, and supposedly taboo-words.
Maybe I’ve greatly digressed.
BWB’s commemoration of the International Day of the Boychild has a room in my mansion of memories — well-furnished, with each player sitting contentedly. We went to Loyola College, and though we had but 30 minutes, we were able to engage the boys, we broke the barrier and got to many of them, and we collected feedback. I got a confirmation of how impactful the school visitation was when one of the boys said we (BWB) were not like others who came to speak to them; that we were free and easy to relate to. It was one of “the boys” in Senior Secondary School 3. His statement is laced with more messages than you can imagine, and I would that we should visit Loyola again, even if it be once, to cement that which we have started with those boys.
What Shall Be Said of Our Deeds and Experience?
Successful boychild advocacy should be one that targets the boychild, and key players in his development and growth: his parents, teachers, and the society at large. Boys Without Borders’ celebration of the International Day of the Boychild was an avenue to reach out to a school (where the boy and his teachers are), the public (or society), and the community (society, or where the boys’ parents are).
All here has been done, things have been said. All here has been said and done, and in summation, it is that the International Day of the Boychild 2021 was impactful, and it is the portal that opened us as an organization to the possibilities, opportunities, and challenges that boychild advocacy holds.