Charting a Path to Redemption: Religious Leaders must Spearhead the Fight Against HIV, Drugs, and Substance Abuse Among Kenya’s Young Men.
At a forum to sensitize religious leaders on prevention and treatment for HIV, drugs, alcohol and substance abuse among boys and men held on August 22, 2023 at Bomas of Kenya, H.E. Pastor Dr. Dorcas Rigathi, the spouse of the Deputy President, brought to light an issue that has remained in the shadows for far too long: the vulnerabilities and struggles of the Kenyan boy child. In her impassioned plea, the First Lady highlighted sobering statistics and called for a unified response from all sectors of society.
Why, in a nation that prides itself on progress, equality, and development, are our young men falling behind? The chilling revelation that 89% of individuals engaged in drug and substance abuse are boys and men, with a substantial number being injectable drug users, brings into sharp focus the monumental scale of the issue. The numbers aren’t just statistics; they represent real lives, hopes, dreams, and futures.
Furthermore, the education gender gap, with fewer boys transitioning to secondary school compared to girls, paints a picture of a nation where one-half of its future leaders, inventors, and innovators are being left behind. This isn’t just a boy problem; it’s a Kenya problem.
Perhaps the most startling revelation is the disheartening incarceration rates. A staggering 87% of all inmates in Kenyan prisons are men and boys. It’s not just a figure; it’s a testament to the long-standing issues that boys face – from societal expectations, peer pressure, to limited access to resources.
In a culture where masculinity is often linked to bravado and risky behaviors, our young men are paying the price, often with their lives. The higher AIDS-related death rate among males due to limited early diagnosis and treatment is a grim reminder that traditional gender norms are lethal.
It is commendable to note Dr. Rigathi’s rallying call to the religious sector, which still wields significant influence in Kenya. The church, mosque, and other religious institutions have the power to steer this conversation and catalyze change from the grassroots level. They can provide mentorship, guide young men towards positive lifestyles, and become strong advocates for the boy child’s welfare. The establishment of a network of role models and mentors, as proposed, is a timely intervention that can save countless lives.
The Dorcas Rigathi Foundation’s commitment to spearheading this social movement and reclaiming the dignity of our boy child is a step in the right direction. But this shouldn’t be a sole endeavor. All stakeholders, from government agencies to NGOs, parents to educators, should heed this call and rally behind this noble cause.
As Dr. Rigathi rightly pointed out, “The future of our youth is in our hands. History will judge us harshly if we do nothing for the boy child now; it is time for action.” Time is of the essence. Let us all play our part, for the sake of our boys, for the sake of Kenya.
Pastor Dorcas Rigathi calls for unified response Against Substance Abuse