Let’s Address Masculinity from Birth Says Jarrett

Earl Jarrett, chief executive officer (CEO) of The Jamaica National Group

Earl Jarrett, chief executive officer (CEO) of The Jamaica National Group, says Jamaica must look to its early childhood development sector, to better shape and influence the development of its boys and, consequently, men.

Contributing to the discussion On Becoming a Man during the weekly JN Group series, JN Circle Thrive Together Life Class, powered by Zoom and aired live on the JN Group’s Facebook page, the JN Group CEO said that while he does not contend that masculinity is facing a crisis, there is a need in our society to understand how to raise and nurture children.

“It all starts with early childhood education and if I were to put on a scientific hat, I’d say maternal nutrition: the state of the mother when she was delivering the child. What is her relationship with the child’s father, or the boy’s father; and how will she then interact with the boy himself,” Mr Jarrett reasoned.

He continued: “Will she treat the boy as being an accident of nature? Will she treat the boy as being a valued part of her life? And so, it starts there, and that is where the problem lies.”

He pointed out that a large number of households, more than 40 per cent according to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), are headed by women, which in some communities, he said, is as high 70 per cent. And some single mothers and grandmothers raising boys, do not always understand their needs and how fragile boys can be, which sometimes result in their female guardians unknowingly damaging their confidence.

“And when that woman has to go to work and look after the child… there is sometimes not enough supervision, not enough contact to enable the child to be stimulated in a positive way. And before one recognises, the child has grown into an adult,” Mr Jarrett stated.

“In that period of time, we have to intervene and be supportive. What you see today as a crisis, is something that started 15 or 20 years ago,” Mr Jarrett opined.

Associate clinical psychologist, Kamala McWhinney agreed with the JN Group CEO.

“What we are seeing didn’t just start today. It is the result of several layers of socialisation and social situations that have precipitated what we are seeing today as a concerning level of violence and also lack of self-worth,” she underlined.

“As a result, there are many men who tend to build their self-worth around what they own and have invested in,” Ms McWhinney argued.

“Therefore, unfortunately there are men who see financial support of a partner as ownership. Hence, when the rejection, or perceived rejection, comes up on them, there is a complete shattering, because the self-worth wasn’t there to begin with,” she argued.

Mr Jarrett underscored that there is a challenge many men face with identity and self-worth.

“There are many young men, who went to university, they got a good degree, but they don’t have the confidence to navigate. And, if you don’t have that confidence in self, and love of self, you’re not going to be able to interact with people in a positive way. You’re not going to be able to be supportive of the fact that a woman you thought you loved, or thought you bought, by paying for her to go to nursing school, has made a decision to do otherwise. We devastate whatever little self-worth a man may have, and he sometimes responds with violence,” Mr Jarrett said.

He pointed out that, as a result, it is important for institutions external to the home, such as schools, to play a crucial role in offering boys and young men the kind of nurturing that may be absent from their families.

“Therefore, teachers must now adopt the right approach. You do not call a young boy stupid and that he will come out to nothing in life. Those things that you hear can, in fact, hurt confidence in yourself that you’ll have a difficulty overcoming it down the road,” he argued.

“So it’s not just your parents who raise you, it’s your friends, your neighbours, your teachers, in particular, who play a very significant part in your upbringing,” he said.