Boys to men
Transformation of boys to men who are truly gender sensitive is the need of the day. Working with men and boys is crucial if we are to prevent gender-based violence. Most of the current gender-based violence prevention strategies address women and girls as victims or potential victims. Addressing gender-based violence from only this perspective is half the job done. We actually need more strategies that get to the roots of gender based violence by addressing the roles and responsibilities of men and boys. Here the role of men as responsible guides and mentors become very important. They can become the mentors, friends and guides to their boys so that we can think about a new generation which is more sensitive to issues like violence in relationships and gender equality.
Boys to men: Catch them young
To think about a society with equal gender rights and without gender based violence we need to work from the ground up. To bring profound attitudinal changes and inculcate sensitivity towards the opposite sex it is necessary to work with boys and nurture them into true gentlemen. This will not only be helpful for the overall personality development of men in a balanced way but it will also equip them to appreciate and adopt to the changing social and economic conditions around the world where women are marching in tandem with men in every field. So the idea should be to catch the boys young and focus our attention to their education and upbringing with a fresh mindset that becomes important for building a society based on equal gender rights.
Boys to men: Vicious environment and few role models
But the challenge for boys in today's world is greater than ever. Boys have too few positive role models and far too many negative examples of masculinity. First of all we should be aware of the fact that from the early days of their childhood boys are swamped and bombarded with influences not only in their homes but also from the outside world in the form of friends, neighbourhood, television, internet, music, movies and many other forces.
Boys to men: Traditional stereotypes
With all these bombardment of influences the society overtly and subtly models them into traditional stereotypes who have to appear macho and behave competitively and violently in every endeavour they engage in. This stereotyping sends conflicting and harmful messages to the boys about what constitutes “being a man” in a relationship. Gangs, drugs, Internet pornography, and teen pregnancies compound the problem further by putting an adverse impact in a young man's life.
Boys to men: Need for a mentor
The other reasons why many boys end up living a unhealthy childhood include high rate of divorce, single parent families, boys seeking honor and respect through threats and acts of violence and use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Further the boys suffer from sadness, fear and anger in a culture of cruelty and are taught not to express their feelings and above all fewer healthy mature men are taking on a mentoring role to guide and nurture boys. Too many good boys get caught up in a path they may not have chosen if they had a mentor to help see options, weigh consequences and make positive choices. Here the role of the father or a male mentor becomes very important in a young boy’s life.
Boys to Men: Grandfathers, Fathers, Uncles & Older brothers please stand up to the occasion
At this stage I would like to address the issue to the fathers and other male adults in a family. As a male mentor you need to understand that the young boys need more of your time and energy whether he be your son, grandson, nephew, younger brother or any other relation. They need a teacher, a coach and a mentor in you to bring in profound attitudinal shifts in their early orientation especially towards girls and relationships. Boys need your advice on how to behave toward girls. They are in fact watching how other men relate to women and therefore to teach them and mould them they need to be shown practical examples which are highly positive in nature. Make sure that they learn that there is absolutely no place for violence in a relationship.
Boys to men: The role of the father or male relative
Boys pick up the early lessons from their immediate family and here your role as a father or male relative is very important. You can help your boy in the following ways
Boys to men: Teach your boy to avoid violence
Teach him that violence is absolutely bad. Teach him how he can express the feeling of anger and frustration without being violent.
Boys to men: Show your boy how to respect others
Show him how to behave with others with respect and fairness. Show him how to share with others and care others. Be there as an example. Preaching is not of much use until you practice what you say.
Boys to men: Listen to your boy
Listen to your boy and find out his attitude and his friends attitude towards girls. Find out if there is any hint of abusive relationships that either he is into or that exists among his friend circle.
Boys to men: Speak to your boy
Speak to him about the external environment like friends, neighbourhood, television, internet, music and movies etc. Make him understand what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. Make it clear to him that that any medium or source which degrades women or promotes violence against women is not acceptable to be emulated or to be associated with.
Boys to men: Teach him by being a role model
As he grows up, teach him how he needs to be a gentleman while dating and interacting with the opposite sex. As I said before, the easiest way to impress upon a boy is by being a role model. Here the role of the father or a male relative becomes paramount. They have to play a major role in teaching and mentoring by setting practical examples themselves.
Boys to men: Help him out in the rough times
Remember that the whole process of teaching and mentoring is a continuous one. You need to be available to him in his good times as well as turbulent ones. Help him to work through problems in relationships as they arise and use every opportunity to reinforce the message that violence has no place in a relationship and in the civilized society.
Boys to men: In depth study and analysis
Further to understand how we can sensitize men and especially young boys against gender based violence we need to study the following questions and topics in depth
1. Why we have to address men and boys in gender based sensitization programs involving issues related to gender violence and gender equality?
Apart from gender sensitization for promoting gender based equality and eradicating gender based violence we need to look at the larger picture of building gentlemen personalities who can positively contribute to the society. Building Gentlemen personalities out of young boys can be done by building their self esteem, by providing a unique and safe place where they can interact with committed, conscientious men, encouraging them to be men of honor, helping them seek and speak the truth and helping them discover and develop their individual strengths, talents and gifts.
Further we can help the boys to evolve in a positive manner by showing positive male role models for the boys to emulate, challenging them to live lives of responsible action, teaching them how to resolve conflicts and ask for forgiveness, supporting their dreams to find a personal mission, praising the greatness in each of them and giving them hope, confidence and courage. Only this can help us build a society with real men.
Article by Sanjay Nair
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