In rural Kenya, young boys and girls are frequently held back from pursuing their ambitions due to cultural practices and beliefs as well as other vices. To counter such challenges, a series of trainings are held to assist them navigate through life. Wildlife Works has been at the forefront of supporting such community projects in our project area, which among them entail education, women’s empowerment and the rights of the girl child.
Recently, supporters of Wildlife Works have facilitated a different kind of training about sexual health education held at Mkamenyi Primary School. The program dubbed MAP (Men as Partners) is specifically tailored to boys above the age of 12 and is run in local primary and secondary schools across Taita Taveta County.
Coordinated by Monica, a local volunteer, the program is aimed at empowering the boy child by teaching them to be responsible members of the society. The boy child’s needs and interests have been marginalized by cultural practices and poverty, and emphasis tends to be concentrated on the girl child leaving the young boys less empowered.
“The reason for having a boys only session is to teach them the importance of respecting women as many have been raised to believe that women are inferior,” says Monica. “This session serves as a way of promoting equal opportunities between boys and girls as well as promoting policies aimed at encouraging non-discriminatory practices,” she explains.
In a typical rural Kenyan setting, parents and teachers shy away from discussing sex education, which is often the cause of young children having a distorted view about sex and relationships. Technology has also played a major role, as most students have access to pornographic materials either from their relatives or peers, leaving them overexposed to unrealistic graphic material and can lead to underage sex and teenage pregnancies.
The session started off well, with Catherine Kanini, a Child Rights Officer who began with a discussion on sexual education. Sensitive matters such as child pornography, bestiality, sexual offenses, sexual assault and child prostitution were tackled. The talk was designed to help them understand what is and what is not acceptable when it comes to these issues. From the shy laughter, it was clear that these were interesting and all-new subjects for them. The young men were given an opportunity to discuss some of the issues they encounter as they grow up. A lot of time was spent talking about the way the boy child can escape vices such as sexual exploitation and child prostitution. They were also encouraged to discuss how their behaviors and attitudes will affect their female peers and how to properly conduct themselves.
Afterwards, our trainers Happiness and Herman introduced a discussion on personal hygiene, where the group was taught the importance of hygiene even when they are not in school. This was followed by a conversation about drug and substance abuse. According to the anti-drug abuse authority in Kenya, National Authority For the Campaign Against Drug Abuse (NACADA) drug addiction in schools has reached alarming levels. Additionally, due to lack of mentorship, pupils fall prey to drug and substance abuse, therefore it is important to talk about the effects of using such substances.
After a thorough discussion, the young boys had the chance to talk about their dreams and ambitions. They want to be pilots, engineers, doctors and lawyers when they grow up but cultural beliefs and practices coupled with poverty are standing in their way. At the end of the session, each of the boys was asked to jot down on a piece of paper what they want to be in the future, what is holding them back and what they are planning to do about it. The papers were then collected by Monica, who handed over to their teacher who is in charge of guidance and counseling to help them with a way forward.
This program was started in 2012 through a Peace Corps initiative, and is one of the many here in Kasigau Corridor REDD+ project, aimed to empower young boys. Next month, Monica and her team are planning to conduct more in-depth training at a residential camp for both boys and girls from various schools.
As Wildlife Works, we are proud to help and support such a great and important initiative and we thank our partners for their continued support of these projects.