Partway through the lesson I thought to myself, “Why are we even here? They aren’t listening to us anyway.” Many of the boys in the crammed classroom seemed to not care about the seminar or the discussion we were having. This was for their own good and they weren’t listening. Then slowly one of the boys got out of his seat, turned around, and told the younger ones who were snickering in the back to be quiet and listen. I don’t know if this bold move was out of respect for us or genuine interest, but one thing was for sure, all of these boys were at a vital moment in their life. They were at the age where one begins to question the essence of manhood and the struggles that come with it.
What does it truly mean to be a man? When do I become one? Do I have what it takes?
The implications of these questions are endless and answers vary according to culture and upbringing. The way a father addresses these issues in his example and words usually has the most impact. More often than not these conversations are neglected because it’s a difficult topic and shameful to discuss.
That’s why we were there. We wanted to teach and facilitate, but this conversation had to be theirs. We wanted to see them speak their opinions and come to their own conclusions. That included discussing the difficult, embarrassing topics of how to deal with their sexuality, what it means to transition into manhood, and how they ought to treat women. After the first boy silenced the snickering, the atmosphere changed and a few boys got up and gave their opinions about becoming a man.
And we suddenly saw it was happening right there; Those young boys were transitioning into men at that very moment by being willing to talk about these things!