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From childhood, boys are socialised in ways meant to prepare them for difficult situations
From childhood, boys are socialised in ways meant to prepare them for difficult situations
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‘To be a man’: The weight society puts on men

“To be a man nawa o” is the title of one of Abrantie Amakye Dede's classic songs.

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 In an interview last year, the Highlife legend explained how his horrid experiences in Nigeria in his early days influenced the lyrics of the song and his diction. In the song, he narrates the responsibilities and challenges men encounter in society and how boys are psyched even before they grow into men.

 “When I was young, I tell my mother sey like I be man I go like oo because man dey enjoy o. My mother tell me sey, to be a man o, to be a man o nawa o.” Ethel Adjorlolo-Marfo is the Founding Director of Junior Shapers Africa and JSA Phenomenal Boys Academy, a male child personal development initiative.

She confirmed to The Mirror in an interview last Wednesday that right from childhood, society expects boys to be tough and brave to deal with difficult situations. Compared to girls, she said boys were pressurised to conform to traditional masculine norms and suppress their emotions and interests.

Also, "Barima nsu" meaning men don't cry in Akan language is often told to boys and men who express their emotions or  shed tears. She said in some homes and schools, boys were often subjected to harsher disciplinary measures than girls, which could have a negative impact on their self-esteem and social development.

“Boys often complain about not being offered a fair hearing in their classrooms when for instance there is a fight or argument between a boy and girl. Teachers are seen often taking the sides of girls and punishing the boys severely.

“Boys continue to face unique challenges that affect their mental health and social development leading to poor academic performance among others.” Mrs Adjololo- Marfo was of the view that until society addressed some of these factors that affect the mental and social health of boys, they (boys) could not reach their full potential and thrive as healthy and confident future men, husbands and fathers.

Manning up

Last week, this reporter spoke to two men; first, a man who had recently lost his wife and a father who was mourning the loss of an only child. The interviews were to find out the support they received when they experienced such tragic incidents.

One of them, Mr Isaac Appiah, a middle aged man, is the lead pastor of a Charismatic Church located at Gbawe in Accra. He and his wife, also middle-aged, had battled with having a biological child for over a decade until his wife conceived in June 2023.

After going through difficult processes to conceive, one can only imagine their excitement when they finally found out they were having a child. Sadly, the baby passed after a long stay at the neonatal intensive care unit.

“The day he passed, I missed a number of calls from the hospital. I knew something was not right but I didn’t think it was death. I assumed they needed us to buy some medication urgently.

But the thought of death struck me when I realised they had not made a single call to my wife who they usually interacted with.” “I sneaked into the washroom to call them. They said they wanted to see me first thing in the morning and not my wife. I kept probing but they wouldn’t say why they needed me.”

“I could barely close my eyes throughout the night but I couldn’t share the information with my wife because I knew she would have insisted we drove to the facility that moment or stay up and cry all night.

The next day when we got to the facility, I intentionally parked a few metres away from the unit and asked her to wait while I bought water. I used a different route to the unit and my biggest fear was confirmed.”

Mr Appiah recounted how he screamed to the amazement of the team that broke the news to him.  “I couldn’t hold myself. I wept like a baby and the nurses looked surprised that a man, a pastor, was crying that way.

But I knew what we had gone through in the past years; we had travelled a difficult journey and that was not how we expected it to end.” He said the most difficult moment was seeing the baby wrapped in a cot sheet and gathering the courage to tell his wife.

“The walk to where I had earlier parked was the longest walk in my life. As soon as I entered the car, I broke down and my wife even before I started talking had also started crying. We stayed in the car for about 30 minutes before making arrangements for the hospital to bury the baby.

He said to date, his wife’s family and some friends say he shouldn’t have cried in the presence of his wife. He also heard a nurse murmur to another the scene he had created at the office when he was told of the death of his child.

The other man, John Kojo Wadie Badu, narrated the incidents following the loss of his wife through an accident. His most difficult moment was identifying the body of his wife at a morgue in Accra.

“Till date, I see the pictures of her head scars and broken limbs on the stretcher on the floor. That is the image engraved in my mind. I am sure if it was a woman who had lost her husband in such a gory accident, no one would send her to the morgue especially on the first day.”

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Mr Badu added that he also felt abandoned as the family and friends who called only asked about the children and not how he was coping beyond the usual “how are you?”. “My wife’s sister moved in with us to help with the children for a while.

 I have seen how women who lose their spouses are treated. In my case and I believe same as other men, you are left to your fate.”

Support for grieving men

In an interview with the Public Relations Officer of Ghana Psychological Association (GPA), Dr Isaac Newman Arthur, he said society perceived men as defenders, providers and problem solvers and so the man must not be the “problem”.

He said men also had a natural mindset of being in charge and a sense of responsibility to fix issues. “When a man loses anything, naturally, he feels he has to fix it himself. Our ability to want to seek help or comfort when in distress is not the same as in women and so it becomes a limitation on the part of men,” he explained.

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He said religiously, men are also  seen as the head of the home, providing leadership to the woman, and so they (men) feel they are to give and not receive, especially, sympathy.
“Sometimes it feels awkward for a man to be comforted in difficult times and because of that, men don’t grieve well.

The effects of this shows up in dysfunctional behaviours such as alcoholism, illicit sex, gambling, pornography and other forms of addiction. This becomes their coping mechanism. 

“Their risk of depression, anger issues and suicide may be higher compared to women who speak out and use relationships to heal.” He said some of the ways to support men in difficult instances included “compassion presence” where people stay around them without asking them for details.

“Talk becomes a nuisance to them. Simply ask them what they want and if you can, provide it. Don’t assume that what you want to offer is what they need. Offer them practical help that will help alleviate their pain.

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If you realise they are still struggling after the support from close friends and family, encourage them to seek help from a professional,” he advised.

Writer’s email: [email protected]

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