Let’s Not Make Them Angry

Last week, we celebrated The International Day of the Girl Child amidst inspiring videos, commentaries and news feeds all over social media.

Myriad tales of difficulties in access to education, reproductive and sexual health services; gender based violence amongst other indignities suffered by girls and women. There were also reports of huge strides made in tackling these ills by organisations and individuals who are committed to making an impact by advocacy and programmes which increase confidence and access to education and health services previously denied girls and women. It was uplifting and motivational to hear all these and feel like a vital part of this wheel of progress.

With all the excitement associated with #TheDayoftheGirl, my 8 year old son engaged me on why it was a big deal. He couldn’t understand why there was an emphasis on letting girls do what as far as he was concerned was well within their rights. I explained that in many parts of the world, even in parts of our own country Nigeria girls were regarded as less than boys; with less rights to education, individual autonomy (not in those exact words!), health and economic services, and even rights to equal inheritance. He categorically stated “I see no reason why my sister or any girl shouldn’t have the same rights as I do. She (his sister) is even better than me in some things!”.

Oh! I was thrilled, I was glad. After all I’d succeeded in raising a male feminist who was righteously indignant that girls should have the same rights as boys. I congratulated myself! Great mother you are, way to go!

Fast forward yesterday evening and he says to me, “ Mum, I know I’m all for girls being able to do the same things boys can, but why isn’t anybody talking about what boys can do about it? It’s all about the girls!”. I answered, “Lots of people are getting boys into the conversation”. He responded, “Well, I haven’t heard them, Mummy. It makes me angry because we count too and can help make it work”.

I had to pause and reflect, and the words of Professor Babatunde Osotimehin of UNDP at the 2016 Women Deliver Conference in Copenhagen came to mind. He said at the opening ceremony, “In fighting for the rights and empowerment of our women and girls, we should remember to involve the boys and the men”.

It’s only smart that we don’t make the boys and men “angry”, in the words of an 8 year old boy, by excluding them from the discourse. They have to be seen and included as stakeholders in this struggle for improving the rights of our girls and women all over the world. They are after all a part of the lives of girls and women. They are after all brothers, fathers, sons and lovers.

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