In a modern world where everything these days seems to be about women and girls, one wonders why we still stand and call for “Girl Child Education” initiatives. The reason is so simple yet reaching it is very complicated. That reason has its roots in “Educate a mother, educate the Nation.” The idea is still very prominent or valid and given the Ugandan setting where patriarchy and institutional inequalities still dominates, talking about Girl Child Education is of paramount importance to bring to awareness or act as a reminder that there is still a lot that needs to be done.
This calling is however been approached in a new angle where Men, so called “Boy” Club come in to offer their moral, physical and mentorship support. The Theme for our first Boy Talk evening Moment focused on “What can Boys and Men Directly Do to Support Girl Child Education?” Simple Question, right? Yet, very complex.
Poverty remains the most important factor for determining whether a girl can access an education. For example, in Nigeria, only 4 percent of poor young women in the North West zone can read, compared with 99 percent of rich young women in the South East. Studies consistently reinforce that girls who face multiple disadvantages — such as low family income, living in remote or underserved locations, disability or belonging to a minority ethno-linguistic group — are farthest behind in terms of access to and completion of education.
Members came in with hot ideas like; sensitization in rural areas on urgency of equality, prioritizing the girl child’s needs to prevent dependency seeking syndrome on men, fathers/brothers should make girls their friends and act as exemplary agents for the cause” among others; all which call for consciousness raising among fathers and men. “Consciousness raising” as used in many feminisms and life struggles, is important in creating an impact in society. As a concept, it questions the understanding of how the ‘psyche’ acts [shapes the attitudes] as a greater challenge or blockade to girls education, produces and enforces more imbalanced actions in educating boys than girls, in thinking girls are useless marriage materials, and in creating situations that legitimize it
The First Boy-Talk moment is indeed a success where ‘campus men’ and beyond no matter their beliefs, class and cultural ascriptions, are coming together to garner their support for girl child education. But why the ‘Boy’s’ or ‘Men’? The guest ladies of the night answered it well. ‘Boys can act the victimizing agents or confidence builders in girls.’ The Men agree that since we are protective in nature for instance to our sisters, why can’t we use that natural protectiveness positively to fight for other girl’s safety while in school? The questions are mind boggling and came from the personal to an interpersonal/social level
Through this type of dialogue and socialization, the “Girls In School Initiative” project aims at revisiting, challenging and questioning the both societal and patriarchal norms which inhibit girls from attending school. Change takes a lot of time and may not be instant but it has to begin from somewhere; somewhere we act either by talking about it or doing a deed in uniformity on what we ought to achieve. And as one participant said, if a woman is educated, she commands respect and reduces on the dependence syndrome on a man [“we get tired if we are asked almost everything”] and most likely, nurture a civilized family. The results are numerous depending on what angle you approach it to. Otherwise, if it was false, why would we bit up our heads like this? Uganda in general has great to learn or something it can borrow from its neighbor Rwanda or the Nordic countries both in its welfare and economic systems where women have been at the fore front of the driving seat. And of course, who are these women? Educated Champions! .