Stirring the social media horizons is the 23 year old climate activist and Makerere University Business School (MUBS) graduate, a one Vanessa Nakate, whose tweet on Monday night stirred a public fracas among Ugandans on twitter.
The tweet, which was directed towards the newly elected President of the United States Joe Biden and his Vice President Kamala Harris included a snapshot of a hand-written letter questioning if the two will fight to address the current climate crisis affecting the globe, citing Uganda as an example.
Among the several disgruntlements people showed with the letter was a line I intend to pull out as an excerpt. “….Climate change is affecting many people’s livelihoods in my country especially children, girls and women…..”
It is important to first note the vulnerable groups of people as stated by the United Nations. These include: refugees, women and girls, children, elderly persons, disabled persons, internally displaced persons, to mention but a few.
While allocating aid and relief support, donor organizations and individuals tend to regard these groups as top priority, which is completely reasonable.
Except for this reason, it has made it almost impossible for activists, non-profits and charities to attract donors’ attention unless they cite these as their beneficiaries, and where does this leave the boy child?
Their image as able-bodied bread winners has made it impossible for ‘men and boys’ as a category to be regarded as vulnerable and in need of support too.
A survey carried out by Makerere University School of Public Health in August 2020 on how the lockdown has affected the boy child in the Kampala region seems to however suggest otherwise. The survey was carried out among 2,500 school-going and out-of-school adolescent boys and young men aged between 10 and 24, across five divisions of Kampala.
The findings of the survey were astonishing. They revealed that many boys are being battered, sexually abused, or forced into sex by women. 80 of them acknowledged to being sexually abused or forced into sex against their will.
Dr. Joseph Matovu, a co-principal investigator on the study says that the findings indicated that while attention is more on the girl child, boys are equally at a risk of being abused as girls.
The findings further showed that 770 of the boys were slapped or physically hurt by a girlfriend, partner, parent or teacher in the last 12 months. 50 of the boys acknowledged to have attempted to commit suicide at the height of lockdown instituted to control the transmission of COVID-19.
Has the focus on women and girls led to a deliberate neglect of their male counterparts? This is one of the major reasons Ms. Nakate was under fire.
By intentionally citing that climate change mainly affected girls and women, Vanessa also deliberately marginalized the boy child sparking outrage. The questions people are asking are mostly honest questions that the world ought to discuss.
Some people argued that she had to play the ‘girls and women card’ to draw attention from the international humanitarian community. One might say they are just being cynical, but nevertheless, it is a valid argument.
If we have to indicate the vulnerability of women and girls to attract the funding that is much needed, doesn’t this then tip the scales in disadvantage to their male counterparts? And how can we say we are striving for an equitable society if we continue to constantly apply unequal means to attain it?
Speaking long-term, say 30 – 50 years, aren’t we only perpetuating the same problem, just switching the sides affected?
The writer is a Columnist with The Ugandan Wire.