Today we celebrate International Men’s Day 2022 themed “Celebrating Mateship”. The day which is celebrated each year on November 19, is used to acknowledge the contribution of positive male role models especially the unsung heroes who have made and are making personal sacrifices to ensure that their family and the society in which they live is peaceful, fulfilling and enriching.
This year’s theme “Celebrating Mateship” speaks to close male friendships and aims to highlight the role “mateship” plays in assisting men live longer, better, healthier lives.
In addition to celebrating men, the day also serves to bring awareness about men’s health.
According to Harvard Health Publishing of the Harvard Medical School, men not only die at a younger age than women but are also more prone to illness during life.
“Men are nearly 10 times more likely to get inguinal hernias than women, and five times more likely to have aortic aneurysms,” Harvard states in its study.
Here in Guyana, we used this day to celebrate President Dr Irfaan Ali’s recently launched “1000 Men” initiative which aims at tackling 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 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.
Today as we celebrate men, we must acknowledge the significant role they play in nurturing and strengthening not only their families but also society.
Happy International Men’s Day!