It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men – Frederick Douglas
There is no loss of campaigns aimed at empowering young women regardless of the direction in which one looks. The effort has been well-made and the impact will follow the effort soon enough. The change will come as a result of continuous communication to society – when the people who are children today grow up with a different mentality (and behaviour) around violence, – one of the biggest challenges we face in our communities.
Femicide has been making the news cycles for a long time; giving credence to the fact that more than 35% of all murders of women globally are reported to be committed by an intimate partner; only 5% of all murders of men are committed by an intimate partner. Then there is rape, killing of children, adults, other young people and suicide.
These numbers are unsettling, whatever the numbers are—even if there is only person whose safety gets violated every year, it’s unacceptable! Both sexes need to learn to co-exist, instead of being at loggerheads with each other, as the recent reports about violence against women and children suggest.
Now, consider this: The boy-child is seen as an infant developing into a young boy who would eventually grow into an adult man and (perhaps) have his own family. He automatically becomes an important part of the (human) growth process and the education / socialisation around how boys and men need to behave in society. The gendered social upbringing of the boy-child places him in a disadvantaged position where he often can’t reveal or show his emotions, is forever under pressure to outshine (be stronger than) his female peers and the most common challenge: he is socialised into being strong, even when circumstances might be better off seeking support.
The boy child is also a victim of gender oppression as the existing socio-cultural norms deny him the freedom to think and act as an individual being. We are made to believe that being a boy / man is easier than being a woman because boys are a superior social group to the girls.
Interventions to help develop young boys can’t be overemphasised, as their growth and emotional stability is crucial to their own well-being and for their loved ones.
In order to reduce violence, especially intimate partner violence among teenagers and young adults in South Africa, we all need to challenge the attitude and norms that allow men (young and old) to assume control over women in any way. The Boy-Child campaign seeks to start challenging the societal norms and start building boys and young men who have values and boundaries and a healthy respect for themselves and for others.