Kenya has featured in the international news recently for some rather peculiar reasons. CNN went to town with the story of the ‘missing president’, the Middle East press talked about our fake gold exportation prowess while we here locally chose to use KOT to make memes about the Huduma Namba. But what caught my attention is a BBC documentary on the increase in suicides among Kenyan men.
Many of us have know things have not been good for Kenyan men but watching this documentary through the eyes of a foreigner was something of a rude awakening. It is sad to see and hear about the increased incidences of Kenyan men killing others and killing themselves. The question is why. The simple answer is this is the worst time to be a man in Kenya – our country is no longer a good place for men.
Let us start at birth. Most families welcome the birth of boys with more aplomb and ceremony than of girls.
The boy (and his mother) is treated like royalty – the mother becomes mama boyi or mama kababa and the infant becomes boyi or kababa. The father struts his stuff with pride, demanding special drinks to acknowledge the fact that his swimmers have delivered a child.
So from day one, boyi or kababa grows up with a halo around his head and the misguided belief that he is a special gift to the universe.
While his sisters are made to learn basis domestic skills like cooking and cleaning, kababa is allowed to run free; the only tough chore he is expected to perform being how to navigate the latest versions of the Play Station.
Talk and gossip
His proud dad is too preoccupied with other things like chasing tenders, chasing the Premier League and of course chasing Slay Queens. In the absence of those tough events such as hunting and cow grazing that moulded boys to men in the past, one would imagine that parents would find substitutes today. Alas!
This is not the case. Most parents are too busy chasing their career dreams or nursing hangovers that they leave their tiny tots submerged in fizzy drinks and junk foods under the care of overpaid domestic workers.
Please note some scientists have said certain biochemical reactions in certain brains could make them more predisposed to suicide. I imagine that pizzas and fizzy drinks do mess up young girths and brains.
So our young boy enters the real world feeling special because everyone loves him and is quite dexterous with his fingers on the Play Stations and life is just as simple as dial–a-delivery.
Somehow this boy makes it through high school, and maybe even manages a pretty average grade. This is where problems really start. His sisters are subjected to numerous sessions to develop their self-confidence, to share their issues and learn how to get ahead in what still remains a man’s world.
The girls talk and gossip about everything from the acne on their faces to parental squabbles at home.
The boys have nothing of the sort – because their fathers despite all their failings have managed to let them know that real men do not gossip or cry. So by the time the boy leaves high school the cauldron of emotions is already simmering in his soul-everything from heartbreak, to bad grades, to broken homes.
Things really get hairy when a Kenyan man leaves university hoping to get a job and stand on his own feet.
This is when he realises rather rudely that he is not that special. He realises he is unemployable because perhaps all he has is a mediocre degree. His sisters on the other hand have the paperwork and other intangibles that they can sell.
We all know Kenyan women have been using their grades and feminine wiles successfully to land jobs. The men are unable to use any of their intangible skills because they do not know the tough skills of human engagements and trade offs – no one has taught them.
Like every other living male creature, these men usually want to be laid and loved by women and to strut their stuff.
They soon learn that being jobless; being broke will get you nowhere. They also learn that their female agemates have bigger ambitions and demands that cannot be satisfied by a broke man with low self–esteem.
Kenyan men have been at the centre of unemployment since the mysterious 6 per cent GDP growth has not created the jobs that give male wallets density.
Even in this tough economy, women are making do since they can do menial jobs and when all else fails they can sell their bodies. What makes it worse is that the young Kenyan men are suffering in silence, bottling it up because they cannot talk about it (not allowed), they cannot drink it away (cannot afford it) but worst of all they cannot afford it.
A serious taskforce – and not one filled with geriatrics and old foggies should be formed to really look at how to help our young men cope with life. These new trendy goat-eating and initiation retreats feel more like events to assuage parental guilt than avenues to tackle the real situation. – [email protected]
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