Gender advocacy is an all-encompassing push for a change in the narrative. It seeks to liberate men and women from the shackles of the unrealistic expectations and stereotypes that patriarchy expects them to live up to. Girl child advocacy, particularly the area of leadership and shattering glass ceilings, is a course that I am passionate about because I am female and most of my advocacy stems from and is fueled by personal experiences. That I advocate for these areas doesn’t mean that gender advocacy is not all-encompassing. Other people are passionate about other aspects of advocacy and from time to time, I like to shine the spotlight on them. Boy child advocacy, for instance, is an important part of gender advocacy. It is an aspect of gender advocacy that is close to my heart because I believe that when more people are involved in this type of advocacy, things will be better and we will achieve gender equality easily. Today, I would love to celebrate Solomon O. Ayodele, an innovator, strategic leader, and a crusader for the boy child. He heads Boys Quarters Africa, an organization that is actively engaged in mentoring boys as they transition to manhood.
In this interview, he takes us into the world of his advocacy. He shows us how it all began, why he started, what he has seen so far, and how he is inspired to go on despite the challenges and oppositions he has faced. Relax, grab a snack and enjoy this eye-opening interaction:
1. Can we meet you, please? –
My name is Solomon O. Ayodele. I am a crusader of a new breed of men. I work within the Innovation, Digital Enablement, and Analytics Team of a Multi-national institution. I also lead the Strategic Execution arm of the Boy Child Reformation Initiative, popularly known as Boys Quarters Africa. I am a believer in the death, resurrection, and life of Jesus and in being a Kingdom influencer in different spheres and areas. I am the Author of Boyfessions and Work In Progress.
2. In a world where men rarely organize programs for boys or men, but we hear complaints that women do a lot of girls, what inspired you to start an organization on boy child advocacy?3. How has the reception been so far over the years from the boys you have impacted?
Surreal and elating transformation. You will agree with me that this is quite a new terrain and bringing this conversation up with Boys can be quite interesting because they are not used to it. However, we have seen and heard Boys open to us and admit the importance of the conversations we are having.
4. Who are your role models in this area?
My life is compartmentalized. I have lifelong and consistent mentors who I look up to and get counsel from, either directly or indirectly. They are: Barr. Kayode Adeniji, Pst. Damilola Oluwatoyinbo, Aunty Debola-Deji Kurunmi, and of course, Jake Stika, who does something similar like we do in Canada.
5. What are the thematic areas for the programs you organize?
At Boys Quarters, we call them pillars of impact, and they are Leadership, Education, Empowerment, and Advocacy.
Under the leadership pillar of impact, the principal objective is to detox the minds of every Boy of the ‘Stereotyped Masculine Leadership’ and the damaging toxic masculinity that is subconsciously passed on. The sheer feeling that Men are made to lead, and Women are made to follow births the spiral disease called ‘Misogyny’ in our society. We engage Boys by teaching them that Leadership is Service and not determined by their Sex or Gender. Leadership is not synonymous to being a Boy or a Man.
For the education pillar, our goal is to empty the street of Africa of Young Boys who are subjected to several forms of violence. (Domestic, Emotional, and Sexual). We are of the resolve that Every Child must Go to school. Boys are not Men yet. Hence, they should not be subjected to debasing realities that rid them of their Self Esteem and desired future. However, our definition of Education here is not ABC or 123 only. It is Music, Drawing, Fashion, Dancing, etc. This is basically about transforming their Gifts into Skills and garnish them up with Values.
On the Empowerment pillar, we currently run a Year-Long at Special Correctional Centre for Boys called ‘THE EXCHANGE’. It is a Skill and Value Transference Programme for Boys in Correctional Centre and those behind bars. Our desire is to see them Exchange their Pains for Purpose, weakness for strength, etc. We skill up and value Up those Boys and help them become amazing citizens. A lot of them got into remand him because of varying issues. At some point, we would provide Legal Aid for them and hope to get them integrated back into the Society, through our Boys Quarters Safe Home. Our goal is to have these Boys Quarters Safe Homes across 100 Cities in Africa, before noon on 31 December 2030.
6. Have you attended other programs before on this before you launched yours? If yes, which programs?
Honestly, I did not attend any before I launched out but since then, I have been engaged in several training programmes, certifications, conferences, and fellowships.
7. What do you hope to achieve with this program?
Upscaling. Getting better.
8. What is your advice to other men who also want to venture into boy child advocacy but do not know how to?
Why are you doing what you are doing? Instead of starting something new, can you partner with an existing platform? By the time we kicked off the Operations of Boys Quarters in December 2018, it was just a friend and I who were busy running around and trying to get things fixed. I remember vividly how we tried searching for other organizations who were into what we do today, but it was difficult to find any. Therefore, I am big on partnership and leveraging already existing structures.
Brace up to also have critical conversations. You will be faced with opposition even from the gender you are advocating for. This is quite interesting but real.
9. What is your call to action sentence so that more men will start doing things for boys?
Start small. Start where you are and be focused on specific areas.
10. What is your advice for men who belittle the efforts of women who are passionate about girls?
Whilst I do not totally subscribe to the parlance that the Future is female; if we truly understand the depth of the biases against women and girls, we will know that we (Men) need to do better.
I am sure that it has been an interesting conversation with Solomon O. Ayodele. He is doing a whole lot for boys out there. He is advocating for their education, teaching them leadership, and ridding the streets of violence cloaked as masculinity. Despite his unrelenting efforts, there is still so much to be done. And we need you on board. So, pick up the gauntlet wherever you find yourself. In his words, start small. Start where you are and be focused in specific areas. While you start, brace up for critical conversations and opposition from the people you are advocating for. I strongly hope his story and advocacy journey will inspire you to get up and do something for the boy child. We need more men setting great examples and showing boys that they don’t have to accept toxic labels or narratives. They can be kind, educated people.
If you would like to learn more about Boys Quarters Africa, connect with Solomon O. Ayodele, or partner with/support his advocacy, kindly reach out to him on any of the social media platforms below:
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/BoysQAfrica
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/sjayo