The Boys Africa is a foundation that Joseph Ngochi started as a passion to champion the wholesome development of the boy child. Being a young man himself, he felt that there have been a lot of efforts to fight for the rights of girls which in turn has acted as a counter narrative to the needs of a boy. This shouldn’t be the case because every child has the right to develop in a safe and supportive environment regardless of their gender.
As my co-ambassador in the launch of the Generation 2030 report in South Africa, he reminds me of the benefits of reaping a demographic dividend. This means that we need more investments in children. We have to stop complaining and get to work. The results of the 2017 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education were recently released. Like 2016, we see that there were more girls in the top positions as compared to the boys. Is this a cause for alarm? Does it mean that boys are no longer motivated to strive for top positions or does it mean that girls have just realised that they are just as bright and are just working harder and smarter than the boys? This is an emotive subject that can bring different dimensions in determining the reasons. However, the point is that every child is equal and should be empowered.
‘Growing up is a challenge for an adolescent boy. It is clear that most teachers who offer guidance and counselling are female. This makes it difficult to approach them. As the former president of the Kenya Students Council, I felt that I was responsible to change this given the fact that I had an upper hand in terms of influence as compared to my peers,’ he says.
Joseph terms his beginnings as humbling and well rooted. He had a lot of support when he started the organization last year with the Attorney General, Professor Githu Muigai assisting him with the registration process by delegating the duty to the solicitor general Madam Christine Agimba. His advice to young people is to be careful about the company they keep because you are the average of the five people you surround yourself with.
There are three pillars which ground the Boys Africa; Mentorship, empowerment in terms of making interventions that empower the boys. Mentorship is done through charity events by visiting places such as the Kabete Approved School where they got the boys to talk about the challenges they face. It is important to assist the children who have been in conflict with the law so that they can rectify the mistakes they make. His appeal to stakeholders is to rehabilitate such schools and ensure they have proper structures, books and teachers. They have also visited other children homes where they aim to give hope to orphans and abandoned children.
Their tag name, Pamoja Tuvuke Initiative gives young people a launching pad to life. This is where they learn about mindset application and the importance of using life skills. Most millennials have challenges making the right decisions because they lack skills such as assertiveness. Through the initiative, they are given photography and filming skills. This enables young people to understand that they can live off their talent.
On the 25th of November 2017, they had an activity dubbed ng’arisha mtaa where they swept some of the streets in Nairobi. They included Tom Mboya Street, Aga Khan Walk and Moi Avenue. They engage in such activities because it allows young people to be involved in matters that affect them. Young people shouldn’t just sit and wait to be given roles to change their lives. They must create authenticity within themselves and hence they should start being responsible even without positions of influence. Such activities are also important in team building and bonding and further allow them to come together as they give back. Later on, they shared lunch with street boys in Central Park.
One would wonder why a father would hold his ten year old son’s hand and let him tag along to Central Park and then leave him there without anyone to provide and protect him. It is important for boys to be educated on how to express themselves. Some of the street children landed there because their parents thought they were intolerant yet they just didn’t know how to express some of the challenges they were facing at home and in school.
‘I rose through the leadership ranks in high school. However, even without a title, I always knew that I was a leader. I started as a class monitor and by the time I left, I was the student president of the Kenya Students Council which has given me an immense privilege to inspire my peers,’ he notes. It is noteworthy that despite his foundation having started off to empower boys, he has members who are girls and this allows him to target all children.
As a captain in school, he had the opportunities to represent his school and the county in debates that involved topics on leadership. Joseph is grateful to his teachers, school and parents for giving him these platforms. As a film production student at the Africa Digital Media Institute, he hopes to use his skill to tell the African story. He wants to film positive stories especially those about boys so that he can retell a counter- narrative that the boy child is heading towards the wrong direction.
His late father was the pillar of his inspiration as Joseph describes. He says that he has always felt obligated to live up to his father’s dream. He was very proud of him and used to introduce him to all his friends. Joseph is determined to work hard and says that he wants to have meaningful impact by the time he is thirty years old.
Joseph wants to use his networks to continue empowering boys. He attributes his current growth to the patron of the foundation, Edward Ndichu, head of digital financial services and mobile payments at Kenya Commercial Bank. He has really encouraged him to take responsibility to empower other boys. Other people who are in the board of trustees of the organization are Pastor Andrew Kariuki of Nairobi Chapel and Joseph Wandai who is an advocate of the high court.