Empowering next generation of leaders

CHOLA Lungu.

“IT TAKES a village to raise a child.” It says a child, it does not specify whether this child is a boy or girl.
I believe all children and all youth must be empowered, educated and inspired to work hard so they can make meaningful contributions to their families, communities and our country.
For years we have assumed all boys grow into responsible men and husbands.
“Be a man!” means be tough and figure it out by yourself because you are Man.
The boy child needs mentorship, guidance and information just like the girl child. The girl child receives special attention and sometimes pressure because she has the amazing ability to have a baby as soon as she hits puberty.
She carries a womb, the potential to reproduce. When a girl becomes pregnant or has a child, her health, education, earning potential and her future may be in jeopardy.
A pregnant girl is often forced to leave school, denying her the right to education.
Is it true that “when you empower a man you empower an individual but when you empower a woman, you empower a nation”?
I do not have the statistics to support this statement and I honestly do not agree with it fully.
I have seen and heard about a lot of men in my country and across my country’s borders educating their own siblings, their siblings’ children and other relatives.
We all have that uncle who everyone goes to see for school fees, wedding contributions and loans, that often are not paid back.
There is pressure on our men to provide, support the family and figure out social basic skills without much coaching or mentoring.
I am excited about girl empowerment and motivating girls to be more assertive because I have worked in the corporate and NGO world and I know that as a woman you often have to work twice as hard to be heard.
I am however worried about equipping girls and leaving out the boys, who we assume will figure it out.
All our children, boys and girls, need to be nurtured by “the village”. We cannot afford to leave anyone behind.
We need to empower all children if we are to see teenage pregnancies reducing, drug and alcohol abuse reducing, immoral pictures circulating on social media reducing and a more unified and progressive nation.
For years, the girl child has not received as much attention as the boy child when it comes to education and other technical skills. Now the focus is on closing the gap.
Are we closing the gap or disadvantaging the boy child? Does the next generation of males have to suffer because their fathers were empowered?
I believe in ubuntu: “I am because we are.” It also means humanity towards others.
It is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.
So if we are to empower the next generation of abantu (people), parents and leaders, we have to use a more inclusive approach.
Let us empower all humans, let us have more inclusive programmes, let us teach our children that boys and girls matter.
We cannot empower girls and continue assuming boys will automatically become well-rounded responsible citizens.
We cannot continue saying our youth are lost when we are not having meaningful conversations with them or mentoring them.
It takes a village to raise umuntu, let us intentionally raise a generation of educated, inspired and empowered Zambians.
Let us empower boys and girls with the same information so they can live together and no one is left feeling neglected and disadvantaged.
The author is a communication consultant and 2014 Mandela fellow.

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