As a gender advocate, I have had people ask me what about advocating for men. They ask: “Isn’t gender equality all about gender balance? Why am I always throwing the spotlight on women or highlighting women’s issues.” I smile and tell them that I speak about girl child and women issues because I have first-hand experience of a lot of the things I talk about. As a woman, I know what it means to live in a patriarchal society. I know to a large extent, the power those stereotypes can wield over people’s perceptions. That is why I am fighting really hard to change them in our girls’/women’s minds and in the society at large. Come to think of it: Isn’t it a lot easier and more genuine to talk about what you have passion for? And isn’t passion sometimes born out of what you have experienced or felt? That is how advocating for women has been like for me. Although my focus is mainly on women and girls, I do not fail to point you in the direction of men who are picking up the gauntlets and advocating for their fellow men and the boy child. I enjoy learning about what they do and shining the spotlight on them. They inspire me to believe that equality is achievable because we need both the boy child and the girl child to be able to make our dreams a reality. Today, I want us to have a time out with Benjamin Sarumi, the Lead Volunteer of OMOKURIN. OMOKURIN is a Yoruba word meaning boy child. He is a passionate young graduate of History and Diplomatic Studies and strongly believes in the boy child and in the Nigerian dream. In this interview, we would be looking at his organisation, what they do, what inspired him to start the advocacy, and how his journey has been so far.
Let’s read from him:
- Can we meet you, please?
Thanks for having me, Ma’am. My name is Benjamin Sarumi, Founder / Lead Volunteer of OMOKURIN. I am a graduate of History and Diplomatic Studies, who has found purpose in Media, Corporate Communications, and OMOKURIN. I am passionate about Arts and The Nigerian Youth. I believe that every member of this demography has answers to the numerous questions that would lead to the success of the Nigerian Dream and improve the Value of The Nigerian Life.
- In a world where men rarely organise programs for boys or men, but we hear complaints that women do a lot of girls, what inspired you to start an organisation on boy child advocacy?
Many Men may not organise or attend Men designated programs for reasons best known to them but we have discovered that a significant number of men spend their time in pubs, for reasons also very obvious; socials, business, networking, easing off, sex, and vice protection.
I think it’s wise to share what OMOKURIN is all about at this point. OMOKURIN meaning Boychild is a community organisation passionate about the transition of Boyhood into Manhood regardless of his background, creed, or abilities. We are raising better men for their individual benefits and that of the society. Our vision has been to raise men who are complete in all ramifications and would also work hand in hand with the Female gender. The men we raise are men who are: disciplined, focused, dreamers with souls for transgenerational transformation.
Every line in the above sentence explains the why behind OMOKURIN.
Growing up, I didn’t really spend much time with my siblings. There was this age disparity between us and that also led to the education gap. But every chance I had with my eldest brother was golden. We had heart to heart conversations about my experience with bullies at school, my fears, how I wished my parents were mostly around, and my self-esteem which he helped me work on. My parents were so busy, working several jobs to keep the family together but my brother was always there as an influential figure when he could. In his absence, however, I was raped. When he got back from school and to my world, I had mastered the act of hiding my pain.
Every boy becomes a man and over time, I realized that every childhood issue allowed to linger or brought into adulthood becomes a messy influence on any contact with this individual regardless of his pedigree and status. Toxicity could be disguised or masked. This is why I am committed to passionately helping men realise their vulnerabilities. I am also offering men the chance to heal.
The Springs of Life Fellowship in my University (The Fountain of Life’s youth organisation) upscaled my understanding of Leadership and Relationship. Pastor Bimbo and Taiwo Odukoya both made it crystal clear that “values and strength of character attract the same”. I realised that if our generation was to take this seriously and fully understand the significance of values and strength of character then it was my job to amplify it. This and more influenced our journey.
- How has the reception been so far over the years from boys you have impacted?
Alluding to Leadership being multidimensional, impact over the years’ been sincere and fulfilling.
I will share a few experiences:
On one occasion, a young man had Daddy absenteeism issues, had borne anger enough to raze Boko Haram. A particular cultism group found this valuable. I learnt of it, met up with him, and we had tissue papers, handkerchiefs, hugs, and a heart to heart session. The cult group would have had him but didn’t because I was privileged to serve.
Another experience I helped deal with was that of a man’s foster mother who never said she loves him. He never said thank you because ‘thank you’ wasn’t enough. So he reached out to me. We wrote a script, I got on my radio show and called his foster Mum. She was about to step into a meeting but she spared us a few minutes. I narrated the situation, the best way I could. When I was done, she was crying on air. She said that she appreciates the call and that she loves him but she was scared to tell him because he seemed too tough. Moments later, the young man walked up to me and pulled me into his thick arms for a hug. He cried on my shoulder with no care for the world. That hug ended with a lot of words; thank you was one of them. My take out from his situation was his inability at expressing emotions, which we worked on.
One of the remarkable experiences I have helped someone get through is mental Health issues as a result of toxicity and Poverty. We found out that anger was prevalent, the same as Poetry and Spoken Words talent amongst our focus group. So we organized a poetry show where everyone had the freedom to share, be heard and, be felt. We refer to this as an Art therapy, it worked. The goal was to get into the minds of our focus group, helping them verbalize their emotion, write it, and heal.
In Lagos, we realized that some young Boys, Teenagers, Youths and, middle-aged and older men shield emotions in one way or another. This mechanism faces its defeat when any member of the age group finds himself in a restricted situation or environment. What did we do? We were open. We were deliberate. We were conscious of the true person behind the pain, guilt, hurt, rape, financial embarrassment, unemployment, academic failure, police records, and shame.
Did we get results? Yes. I prayed for weeks even as I wept. The truth is, many times, religious bodies have failed to tell people the whole truth; when you accept JESUS, your pain doesn’t go away. Rather, with JESUS, you draw strength and learn to grow above it. The growth period requires discipline, obedience, character modification, and emotional intelligence.
Every Boy, Man wants to be their best selves, the bridge, however, is ‘trust’ that they wouldn’t be judged. At OMOKURIN, we don’t judge people rather we LOVE.
- Who are your role models in this area?
King David in the Bible. History remembers him as a great Man. I also do, but much more, I remember him as a Captain of broken Men even in his most broken state. He was able to create mighty men out of a bunch of rejects and misfits. When I was raped as a child, I became a sex addict. I couldn’t tell anyone that I had changed. I needed to constantly relive those moments until I grew off it. I healed. King David’s story made me feel like I could make something out of my life.
TD Jakes. Bishop TD Jakes helped me grow up. Reading his book: Loose That Man while in the University helped form the decision to breathe and live. His passion for the Male gender realising its purpose and presence’ been a mountain camp for us at OMOKURIN.
And there’s Deji Irawo. An amazing Man who models True Fatherhood. I admire him.
- What are the thematic areas for the programs you organise?
OMOKURIN is a movement. As a movement, we are daily changing the Gender and Influence narrative. Ours is a cultural shift. An online and offline engagement. And when there is a conference or event, our stand is the same. We are concerned about the increased prevalence of rascality, rape, and substance abuse amongst the Boychild.
We are passionately concerned about his conditioning, his actions, and in-actions as they affect him, his home, his society, his future, the Female gender, leadership, and the world at large. In addressing these concerns, we have successfully narrowed our operations to Passion, Leadership, and Career; which employs Engagement, Enlightenment, and Empowerment. We love to fuel the Mind, fuel the Soul, and transform Realities to the level of greatness being made common. We understand that a Boy Today becomes a Man Tomorrow.
We are aware of the need to Help Boys Help Girls. We are conscious of the vulnerabilities of the Male gender, though not at the mercy of the public; hence our realization of Boys Too Needing Help. Our overview is not geared at generating gender war but focused on easing and eradicating the supply chain of society’s challenges because Boys Too Have Issues.
- Have you attended other programs before on this before you launched yours? If yes, which programs?
Now that you asked, No. Hmm…. From my teenage years in the church, no one really focused on Boys and Boys Helping Girls. Not even the Men’s Fellowship.
- What do you hope to achieve with this program?
With the OMOKURIN movement, you mean. With GOD’s help, we will help raise complete Men who wouldn’t pick up demons left behind by their Fathers.
- Your key statement has been ‘to Help boys help girls’, can you tell us more about that?
Yes, a million times *smiles*.
My elder sister once told me of how well and honourably I would attend to my future wife and Daughters based on my actions towards herself, my eldest sister, and my Mum. That struck a chord in my brains. Since then, I would ask her to walk away from the road, open doors for her, and pick a few chores on her behalf (before she got married). The narrative on Gender Emancipation is not one that empowers a Battle of the Sex’. It is a clear guide to empowering minds. Boys become Men and Men could be Fathers to Daughters. If we make a culture of Gender Dignity today, we will have Fathers raising confident, empowered. and purpose-driven young ladies.
- What is your advice to other men who also want to venture into boy child advocacy but do not know how to?
I feel privileged to do this.
Stay connected to the Source. Inspiration and structure are the same.
Know thyself, understand thy message – vision, mission, and values.
Do not make it a gender war.
Have an accountability system.
Build a support system.
- What is your call to action sentence so that more men will start doing things for boys?
A group of young men and ladies popularly referred to as One Million Boys for a long time had caught our attention, hence our advocacy. For some of these young men and ladies, this alone is the reality they know, for some others, it’s a home, family, and vices protection base.
We are concerned about these realities as the effects might be a growing insurgency budding within our communities, schools, and homes.
One Million Boys is not a Non-Governmental Organisation, but a shared resolve amongst Boys. Members of these sects were born, they must have had Fathers.
Are you living the true meaning of Fatherhood?
- What is your advice for men who belittle the efforts of women who are passionate about girls?
Kindly stop. Don’t be selective.
Be a Father; provide, nurture, and protect.
Protect these Women
Help in nurturing their vision
Provide your finances, time, expertise and emotional support
Thank you for your time Ma’am
You can read past features on such men on https://roselineadewuyi.com/men-picking-up-the-gauntlets/ and https://roselineadewuyi.com/men-picking-up-the-gauntlets-2/
I trust that it has been an insightful and enlightening one from Benjamin! He has indeed said it all. Our boys also need guidance, words of advice, a shoulder to lean on, and positive role models. Men out there who are doing great in your respective fields of endeavors, why not follow Benjamin’s example? Please take initiative too and help mentor boys and young men around you. Be that support system. Give them a shoulder to cry on. I know that the world would be a much better place if we are as intentional about our boys as well are about our girls. Please if you would like to reach/support Benjamin or OMOKURIN, feel free to use these social media handles: Instagram @OMOKURIN, Twitter @OMOKURIN and http://www.omokunrin.weebly.com
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Keep inspiring, one boy at a time