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Girls and Science: Can 'Boys' Champion the Journey?

Posted by GISInitiative on November 27, 2016 at 4:55 AM Comments comments (10)

By Ibrahim Bahati, Girls In School Initiative (GISI) Gender Advisor

It is Saturday evening and the sun is scorching hot. There are already only four‘boys’ waiting for the event to begin. The guest of honor has arrived and everything seems blurry. They sit there faces chocked with half smiles as they hold on a little bit longer. Promisingly members start flocking in. In 20 minutes, they were ready to begin. This November 26th 2016 Boy-Talk moment organized by Girls in School Initiative had unraveling surprises of its own. It’s not the pizza that they all enjoyed at the end but the thrilling talk from Concern for the Girl Child’s Executive Director, Catherine Opondo, the guest speaker. She first scribbles through her phone notes and then smiling poses that rhetorical question members didn’t expect; ”Will you be a Champion?” The whole meeting grew silent.

This month’s topic centered on whether girls education in science subjects helps bridge the gender disparity gap in the world of sciences, and as always, seeking to understand the greater role boys play in support of this initiative. Mrs. Opondo took a very firm stand on this, that indeed “Girls involvement in sciences helps to bridge the gender disparity gap in the world of science.” She drew examples from her lifeline and career experiences alongside places she has lived in like the Middle East. Mrs. Opondo made the members to re-imagine where science goes beyond the test tube to daily life experiences practices. To her, what is science and where is science? She imagines a boy[s] playing a leading role[s] in challenging a girl on what her future plan/dream is in relation to science [science aspirations?] is or simply, what is it that she likes in a lipstick? A lipstick can/is just a lipstick but she nuances it with this scientific aspiring girl who is made to rethink [by the boy] on ‘eco-lipstick’ and how it would revolutionize a healthier woman in a cosmetology world. That; when girls are pushed to think, they too can progressively become better like boys. Her emphatic ideal was “Boys can point girls to hope,” plus “raising aspirations is really important” in any human lives especially girls. Mrs. Opondo stressed out three main wayshow boys can help: Through, (a) Socialization; where they can help bridge the cultural gap; (b) Protection, where boys protect girls against ill derailleur’s by acting as ‘Big Brothers’ and, (c) Advocacy; where boys become champions for change.

In these modern times, there has been a lot of rumbling and calling for girl’s education. But where do we place the men and what is their role in all this? There is still a lot that ‘boys’ can do to champion the cause, more so in the world of science. Mrs. Opondo gave pointers from leverage the using of the existing structures to get organized and seek support through networks; spear heading men’s groups in informing about both the urgent and long term need/impact for promoting girl child education as well as acting as ‘changemakers’ where they promote and encourage girls to pursue sciences in schools.

As the meeting drew to a close, members were already battering with ideas from their own their experiences afar. They agreed that its high time men stopped giving girls dolls but surround them with gadgets to harness their imagination, i.e., procreating a science mind. On a sad reality, many girls drop out of school when they become pregnant and so are giving up on their dreams. This is where men can come in as supportive and counselors that having a baby is not the end of one’s career aspirations.

The whole event seemed quite mind boggling and yet mind changing. It stems from ‘Boys’ testimonies of how they perceive the concept of gender while relearning anew. The talk by Mrs. Opondo was nothing less but exploratory, inspirational and more so, relational. The Boy-Talk Moments have had one important impact sofar; continuous dialogue even after culture shock. Muslim boys who are members are battering with perceptions about ‘who is a woman [?]’(both at a personal, religious and societal level) than ever before. The greater hope that seems to looms allover is that members are endlessly questioning while seeking answers of their own without failing to commit themselves to the cause. Wholly, they all seemed to agree with Mrs. Opondo in her assertion that, “The power imbalance cannot be ignored. We maybe different physically but we are all equal”.




Walking the Talk: The 1st Boy-Talk Moment on Girl Child Education

Posted by GISInitiative on November 12, 2016 at 1:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Walking the Talk: The 1st Boy-Talk Moment on Girl Child Education

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. 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! The Photos can be seen here