Secondary schoolboys in Tobago are encouraged to "talk it out" when they encounter challenges in their lives.
This was the message that resonated through the corridors of the Shaw Park Cultural Complex on Tuesday as secondary schoolboys gathered to celebrate International Day of the Boy Child. The event was hosted by Women of Substance.
Celebrated on May 16 annually, the International Day of the Boy aims to focus and raise awareness of wellbeing of boys. This year's theme is – boys and their mental health. On this day, families are encouraged to spend time with their sons, grandsons and boys who their treat as their own, enjoy doing things they love and create memories.
Women of Substance founder and CEO Onika Mars welcomed the youths and explained the conference was meant to encourage them to speak about issues and challenges they encounter in relationships, especially with their fathers, as well as how to overcome violence and substance abuse.
“What we want to do is encourage young me to share how they feel – express how they feel because very often in our society, young men are shutdown. A lot of young men feel that their voices are never been heard, nobody takes the time to listen, and we want to create that safe space so that they can share about the challenges they experience on a daily basis,” Mars told Newsday.
She added: “We want to also encourage the young men to share – express how they feel, find a trusted person, a friend or family member or teacher to share their challenges and also receive the necessary help. So when they share about their challenges, of course help can be received. Nobody will know you need help if you stay quiet.”
She said she plans to continue with symposiums geared to males.
“We do a lot of work with girls and women and what we understand is because there is a high percentage of male perpetrators, we understand the need to also empower our young men. If our girls are empowered and our young men are not, it means that it makes the work of Women of Substance harder and of course there is going to be an imbalance so hence the reason why we incorporate boys’ intervention programmes.”
She offered some words of advice in going forward.
“I want to encourage us as adults – take time out to listen to our young men and listen without judging them. They are going through a lot; they are exposed to so much – take that time to listen to them. Parents – spend quality time with your young men, listen to what they are saying please. Fathers, please take back that responsibility of being the head of the home. Return to your homes and your families and be that positive role model to your sons.”
Speakers at the event included Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy Shante Moore, Roots Foundation TT chairman Mtima Solwazi and radio personality Richard Trumpet.