In Summary
  • Men-only gatherings are virtually unheard of, not just in Kenya, but across the world.
  • Those in support of the conference say gathering helps “to restore the roar” among men.
  • Experts observe that in the last few years, there has been a growing feeling that after decades of empowering women and girls, boys have been left behind.

When Eldoret played host to the men’s conference on Monday, the event opened a new chapter in Kenya’s gender discourse.

The first ever such meeting in the country, however, drew mixed reactions from Kenyans, with some dismissing it as an ill-informed affair.

That a controversial Uasin Gishu farmer and politician was a keynote speaker shone a spotlight on the one-day event that was highly attended.

Mzee Jackson Kibor, 85, has had three bitter divorces that played out in the public, one from Josephine Jepkoech, his wife of more than 50 years.

He advised men to “be firm, non-violent but not to be easily swayed by their women”, adding that he has always advocated for strong men and even defended their rights in old age.

VULNERABLE MEN?

While women have converged on different occasions to discuss their affairs, to network and to forge ways for their empowerment, men-only gatherings are virtually unheard of, not just in Kenya, but across the world.

So, why a men’s-only conference? What has changed? Do Kenyan men feel vulnerable? Do they feel that their place in the society is under threat? Are these fears real or imagined?

Supporting the conference, Nairobi pastor and speaker Robert Burale termed it “a time to break” and a gathering that would help “to restore the roar” among men.

Previously, Mr Burale has been on record saying that Kenyan men are suffering from many insecurities, and that they are vulnerable “when they can’t provide”.

Mr Burale notes that men prefer not to talk about their vulnerabilities and instead “scream in the inside”.

UNDER SIEGE

He argued that the problem is compounded when men compare themselves with other men who are more accomplished.

For Kanyo Sinyanya, this was a perfect break from “pain and difficulties” for Kenyan men.

“It’s always nice to be around men only,” he tweeted, adding that whenever men are gathered, they need not “worry about women reminding us how broke and useless we are”.

Some women too, feel men— especially the married ones—are under siege.

Some Kenyan men, Joyce Musonga, said are facing domestic abuse, and that the majority of them hide “their vulnerability on social media owing to their egos”.

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