On Pan-Africanism and investing in boys for positive future societies: Updates from Nairobi Part 3
He was introduced to the packed conference room only as Student Representative, and this sparked suspense. When he stood up and walked up the stairs to the podium, he exuded something very familiar, but seemingly lost. I kept wondering and trying hard to think what it was. Yes, the image struck me, but it was hazy, and threatened to run away.
He observed protocol in style – in a participatory manner, asking each group of people there represented to shout in excitement once their group was called out. Starting with the men, he moved on to the youths, and strategically - lastly but not least to the women, and the conference room boomeranged. When the women’s voices boomed, he smiled and yelled in affirmation of the power in the women’s voices, and openly declared his love and respect for them.
When he finally opened his mouth to speak, everyone was moved, and close to tears too. Then flash, I knew who he reminded me of. Mwalimu! Julius Nyerere, beautiful symbol of Pan Africanism, and of peace.
The boy is only 13 years old, and his name is Stephen Njoroge. He is Founder/President of We Care Clubs and also a Messenger of Peace Ambassador. His movement commands a membership of over 5 000, all committed to restoring and preserving the environment. The words he remembers most from Wangari Maathai, and was keen to share on the podium were, “We are better off as a people observing diversity that when claim that we are alike.” He declared his passionate love for the late Laurette, who he declared still alive spiritually, and that even if he were to spend the whole day reflecting on the life of this phenomenal woman, he would never do justice to the inspiration the renowned woman’s life has had on him.
Njoroge’s speech summarised the negative impact of environmental degradation on women; the burden it adds to them as they are the one who bear the burden of fetching firewood and labouring to feed families in areas where deforestation causes drought leading to food insecurities; but also the burden on states as they borrow just to feed nations, and even as refugees filter in untimely in search of better lives; and a whole thesis of other problems associated with this. He acknowledged that all the work his organisation is doing follows rights in the foot-steps of Wangari Maathai. He bemoaned the production and commercialisation of cars and other engine run machineries, and the massive importation of second hand vehicles from the first world, which is often done without thinking broadly about the effects to the environment.
Stephen Njoroge is a young boy with two rare minds combined together, that of a real man and that of a seasoned man. He is a real ally to the cause of advancing peace and security in his country, and in the world. His experience for me was unique because the only model I am most familiar with, and I have seen being emphasised on in mainstream gender peace and security male involvement strategies is that of powerful elderly men in traditional structures, of powerful men in formal institutional structures and of those at policy level who are generously invested in, often at the expense of women, in the hope that they will influence gender sensitive policy transformation, a cause they however rarely do justice to. Njoronge’s example is a real challenge to the world to start thinking of investing development initiatives in upcoming male generations. Sometimes when all hope seems to be getting lost, it is better to start anew, and ensure that we do it properly to foster new, untainted positive masculinities.
Today is Day 3 of the Regional Meeting on the Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict. Most activities today took place at the UN Headquarters in Gigiri, where Kenya marked celebrations for three historic movements, the Africa Environment Day (AED), THE Wangari Maathai Day and the World WildLife Day, all of which fall on the 3rd of March. The AED and The Wangari Maathai Day were both designated by Decision of the Africa Union, while the World WildLife Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly (UNGA).
Stephen Njoroge escorted Wanjira Maathai, in the company of women from all over Africa and the globe who are gathered in Kenya to push The International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict to the tree the Nobel Peace Prize winner planted in 2004. This is the first global collaboration of Nobel Peace Laureates, international advocacy organisations, and groups working at the regional and community levels in conflict areas.