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Opinion: Empowering and re-shaping the mindsets of young men; The Plat4orm Approach

An emerging lapse in the sole emphasis on female empowerment has been the neglect of the young male and their place in the changing world

Marginalization against women has been entrenched in socio-cultural, corporate and governance contexts over centuries due to systemic and entrenched norms, prejudices, and misconceptions against the female gender.

In recent years, through much advocacy, literacy, awareness, and training, women empowerment has gained central focus with notable strides being made in all spheres and sectors, albeit slowly.

Women’s rights are now enshrined in policy documents and a key performance indicator of progressive democratic governance the world over.

An emerging lapse in the sole emphasis on female empowerment has been the neglect of the young male and their place in the changing socio-cultural, corporate, academic spaces where leadership and dominance, once the sole preserve of men, have now become co-shared domains with their female counterparts.

Traditionally, where girls had been deliberately raised to be home-keepers, the new wave of women empowerment has seen girls now actively encouraged and raised to be self-sufficient, independent thinkers who assert their own power and influence in every space.

The author, Nana Abena Hagan with Naseem Shah, British Labour Party politician and Member of Parliament (MP) for Bradford West

The girl empowerment trend seems to have had the unintended consequence of the displacement of the male child, who traditionally was given little attention, mentorship and guided training and automatically accorded the position of natural leader and head of the two sexes.

The prevalent culture of silencing, marginalizing or not recognising the voice of young children in most minority communities further exacerbates this problem – young adults, especially, boys, are unable to carve out a balanced identity and a sense of purpose.

This stems from the machismo-pedestal on which men are generally placed in our minority cultural settings that make open discussions of vulnerabilities and struggles with mental health, and uncertainties in defining their identity, sense of place and purpose, deemed to be taboo subjects which are best shunned or relegated to the background.

For most, the path best followed is the frequently seen and experienced, thereby entrenching and perpetuating the ills in outlook that are demonstrated by the readily available role models they are surrounded by.

The nature of the generational and technological gap prevalent in most minority communities means that the current generation of young males may not always find the best-equipped or the most exemplary role models readily available within their immediate settings to provide them with the much-needed support system and positive guidance for their development.

This leaves many susceptible to the influence of their peers or negative influences from not-so-well-meaning sources in navigating modern-day career, relationship, educational, social, and cultural challenges.

We may be nursing a generation of frustrated, emotionally pent-up young males who have very few recognizable and relatable avenues to seek genuine help and direction for them to develop into fully functioning adults who express and contribute the best of their potentials to society.

The author, Nana Abena Hagan delivering her paper

Another contributing factor is the rise in the absence of strong good fatherly influences and mentors in the lives of young boys. Research has shown that involved fathers influence their children’s development in unique and important ways.

Fathers who are present, involved and model good behaviour provide a positive male role model for their children and help to promote/reinforce good behaviours. They also provide a guidance and support system for their children and help them to find their place in the world and become high achievers.

However, given the decline of marriage, increase in divorce, and growth of nonmarital childbearing in our modern society, many biological fathers do not live with their children, which can reduce contact, marginalize their role and ultimately minimize their influence. These have profound effects on our young boys.

Most young males who find themselves such family structures have no good male role models to look up to, and are largely neglected, left to fend for themselves and carve out their own paths without adequate support and guidance from the home, society, and even educational institutions.

Consequently, these young males become associated with and involved in criminal behaviour and social vices such as substance abuse, theft, truancy, dropping out of school, gang affiliations, petty crimes etc.

The emerging fallouts of this imbalance are the exponential increase in male-acted and initiated crimes, rising incarceration rates, increasing gang memberships, declining interest in pursuit of higher education opportunities, and increased mental health challenges, as young males struggle for a re-defined sense of identity and expression in the changing social fabric.

The balanced empowerment of both male and female genders is paramount to the success of every society. We therefore posit that boy-child empowerment is an equally fundamental and complementary key to true societal growth and worth investing in for social dividends.

There is the need to actively create mentoring schemes and safe spaces for the sound development of young males by teaching, nurturing, empowering, and encouraging the right ideals and values for them to navigate and thrive in the co-shared modern social landscape.

The Plat4orm Model – Thrive Project

The Plat4orm model proposes a 5-pronged approach to this:

  • Support and Care Groups for Boy-Mums and Boy-Dads:

This involves the creation of a care and peer-support group that caters to resourcing boy-Mums, boy-Dads and guardians with tips to affirm young males and strategies to creating safe spaces for them to be nurtured and/or helped.

  • Peer Guidance and Counselling

This approach adopts empowering young males to mentor their peers. This may provide a relatable peer advocate who connects with young males in engagements, offering support or liaising between them and the organisation, or signposting them to resources and/or opportunities.

  • Training and Skills Development Schemes

This concept involves equipping young males in building requisite and relevant skills (cognitive, transferable, and technical) through engagement in building entrepreneurial mindsets and training support that boost employability.

This ranges from acquiring basic professional and personal skills such as time management, presentation skills, public speaking, email communication, note-taking, CV and cover letters, professional integrity, creating online profiles etc. where needed.

  • Safe Spaces (Professional Counselling Avenues)

The Platform looks to provide safe, ambient and reflective spaces where young males can freely, safely and anonymously access professional counselling services when they feel the need to develop strategies to deal with life’s challenges.

  • School Mentoring Days – Project Thrive

This involves designated visits to schools to engage with young adults, especially males, with young and older mentors to encourage students by sharing their life’s journey and inspiring young adults to strive to become the best versions of themselves in every expression.

This opinion piece was written by Mrs Nana Abena Owusuwah Hagan, host of British online talk show, “The Inside View”. She presented it to a committee of the UK Parliament under the theme; “empowering and re-shaping the mindsets of young men”.

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