In raising the gender-biased coverage of the abduction of school children in Nigeria, the following two paragraphs are excerpts from an article I wrote, which was not published due to my concern for a potential backlash:
‘I grew up in Nigeria, West Africa and I am more than aware of the countless biases against Women and Girls. As the Executive Officer of Boys Quarters Africa, a boychild transformation movement, I have led my team in directly engaging over 5,000 boys across 11 cities in Africa. In our work, we’ve realized the society has boxed up boys in a circle of ‘gender conditioning’—a state of mental assumption where people feel boys will be boys and they will be okay. The biggest of this assumption is that boys are men, and they would be fine. As a boychild Advocate, I have always pushed for the provision of a bottom-top solution for the myriad of problems that feminists have pointed out about men and the patriarchal society that enables the structure.
According to UNICEF, more than 1000 children have been abducted by Boko Haram in north-eastern Nigeria since 2013. However, the global limelight and focus have been on the 247 Chibok girls who were abducted from their secondary school. The question that begs for an answer is, are the abducted boys not children? Whilst it is imperative to cry to bring back our girls, it’s time to also cry against the abduction of our boys. There is practically no in-depth, dedicated and focused research or funding on the crop of ‘endangered’ boys across the world, most importantly Nigeria.’
However, on the 11th of December 2020, hundreds of gunmen raided a school and abducted a sizable number of boys, whose exact number remains unknow till now. The trends on social media and the impact analysis of these abduction began as the world started to see how the abduction of these boys is like a smooth-sailing recruitment for the Boko Haram sect—an organisation which has increasingly gained notoriety for high-profile abductions of school children.
No doubt, the abduction and terrorism circle in North Eastern Nigeria is a path that requires a refocused analysis of the root cause. The same boys who are abducted are yet recruited into the arm handling and they return to abduct their sisters and mothers. It’s important the world begin to pay attention to the truth that boys are children and should be treated as such. We need to begin to include boys in the ‘children’ conversation. A lot of time, when the word ‘children’ is mentioned, we are automatically convinced that this is about girls. How do we end a war without focusing on the root cause? Whilst it is difficult to fix men, it is easier to build boys.
A recent study by Edu Celeb shows that there are more boys who are out of school than girls in Nigeria. Following the report, it was noted that Kano State leads the pack with 748,468 out of schoolboys, which is a combined figure of about 13 states. What are these boys busy with? How are they engaged? These questions may only be pointing us to a solution we’ve been overlooking. Now is the time to educate our boys and groom them for better direction and vocation.
At Boys Quarters Africa, we’ve made efforts in reaching out to Boys at juvenile homes through divergent empowerment programmes, and we’ve also curated digital programmes for Boys, preparing them for the future.
Whilst it is important to focus on ending all the countless biases against women and girls, it is important for the world to know we are missing out a major part of the puzzle. This is to ensure these Boys aren’t lost in the crossfire of solving a problem yet creating a bigger one.