“1000 Men” initiative

The “1000 Men” initiative launched by the Government to tackle issues affecting men countrywide comes at a timely period in Guyana.
As it stands in the moment, domestic violence, abuse, and drug use, among other social issues, are consuming our men – young and old.
To quote President Dr Irfaan Ali: “The mission of this ‘1000 Men’ is to work in every single community to eradicate hunger, to work in every single community to lift up those who are emotionally [and] socially affected. It is to change every society and bring positive living and positive life in every single community. It is to work against violence, it is to work at making men better at being good men, responsible men, responsible boys, responsible youth in our society.”
This issue is not limited to Guyana, but over the last four decades, developing Caribbean countries have been struggling with young men and men maintaining and keeping roles and responsibilities in the family, and society as a whole.
However, the issue of the role of men and their influence and impact in raising children has always been a concern in Guyana.
In Guyana, while there are no readily-available statistics, it is believed that there is a huge percentage of children growing up in single-parent headed homes; in most cases without the much-needed guidance and support of a father figure. No one can deny the importance of men, fathers, and father figures in helping to nurture and care for children, especially in their early stages of development.
According to a UNICEF analysis, more than half – or 55 per cent – of children aged between three and four years old in 74 countries – approximately 40 million – have fathers who do not play or engage in early learning activities with them. The UNICEF analysis, which uses Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) data on parenting behaviours, looked at whether children aged three and four engaged in any play and early learning activities with their fathers. The activities include having their father read to the children, tell them stories or sing with them; taking them outside, playing with them; and naming, counting, or drawing with them. The MICS is the largest collection of comparable data on parental behaviours in the world.
According to UNICEF, advances in neuroscience have proven that when children spend their earliest years in a nurturing, stimulating environment, new neural connections can form at a once-in-a-lifetime speed of 1000 per second. These connections help determine their health, ability to learn and deal with stress, and even influence their earning capacity as adults.
Research also suggests that exposure to violence and a lack of stimulation and care can prevent neural connections from occurring; and when children positively interact with their fathers, they have better psychological health, self-esteem, and life satisfaction in the long term.

The truth is, many Caribbean men and boys are being poorly socialised, and are many times not given enough attention during their early years of development at home, in school, and within the wider society.
At an early age, boys within the Caribbean are told that they must be tough, they are socialised to hide their weaknesses and sensitivities, and to shun anything that even slightly appears feminine.
We must re-educate our young boys, therefore, and change how they perceive the importance of education, despite the economic hardships and feminisation of this tool by the societies in which they dwell.
A renowned Jamaican educator, Wayne Campbell, asserts that “there is also the need to urgently recast our current gender policy. One way of doing so is to incorporate more men into the discourse to shape our national gender policy. It’s ludicrous to think that women only, or a gender board dominated by women, can advocate the needs of our boys and men. We also need to examine the possibility of creating so-called ‘boy-friendly’ curricula, assessments, and pedagogical practices. We now know that boys learn differently than girls, and, therefore, we should use this knowledge to refashion teaching methodologies that speak to both sexes in the classroom.”
It is an initiative like this that was launched by President Ali that will start involving more boys, young men, and men in the national discourse on gender policy. We support and commend this initiative.