Wendy Stebbins
Posted February 14, 2018 from United States


Bringing Up Boys

Speaking of synchronicity . . . for the past 3 weeks I have been thinking I should write a post on how young men can be taught to treat women equal. For 11 years I have been having success with this issue in Livingstone, Zambia. So, you can imagine how excited I was to see that World Pulse, who always seems to be on the cutting edge of current issues, decided to open the door to such a discussion.

My story draws on my actual work making changes over so many years. When I started going to Zambia from Chicago, Illinois, I was discouraged as I saw volunteer and missionary groups sincerely trying to make a difference. But there was so little sustainable success. Since I had a different more comprehensive idea of how to make change, I decided to start my own NGO, I AM ONE IN A MILLION and do it my way. While I sponsor 67 street orphans, influence 650 girls at St. Mary’s Private Girls School with the library I built, the weekly book club and monthly reading competition I started, my main crème de la crème is that DAILY I started taking 11 bright orphans, Grade seven to the 5 star hotel in this developing country, and teaching them how to shower, use faucets, toilets, eat at a table, look people in the eye like they are somebody, how to dress properly, use computers, debate, brush their teeth, watch motivational movies and discuss. You CANNOT aspire to what you have never seen, or more importantly HOW you have FELT after seeing something you want but that is just out of reach. It sets a whole new drive into motion. My being present consistently and frequently is crucial to long term success. I have learned also that things progress on a deep level of learning when you only work with a few kids rather than hundreds. Each is different and demands my finding tthat one special gift they have. My mantra has always been EVERYONE HAS A SPECIAL GIFT AND SOON WE WILL FIND YOURS. As an aside, all the young teens were afraid to climb the 8 stairs to the hotel restaurant. They had never done that before.

MUST HAVE AN EXIT STRATEGY: I now have several in university, 2 in med school, one graduated from university and several above the poverty level in such jobs as taxi drivers. Although I didn’t, it is important to have an exit strategy. There are few jobs in Zambia so if a person gets through Grade 12 even, there are few if any jobs available to sustain themselves. Our first university grad can’t find a job despite his education. So, we started him a maize business. But what if I had not been there to finance this and help him. So there is a lot of thinking and planning that must go into any endeavor.

The first four years, my goal was to understand this population. Most of WP aspiring helpers are in the enviable position of already knowing what the hidden traditions, customs and so forth are. But do-gooder foreigners don’t and this is one way we miss making sustainable progress. For example, after four years, Joyce, a Zambian hotel manager, dared to tell me “THE PROBLEM WITH YOU WHITE PEOPLE IS YOU DON’T KNOW OUR HIDDEN TRADITIONS.WE HIDE THEM FROM YOU. Let me tell you one. If a wife makes a chicken and she even takes one little taste of the giblet, the man can beat her badly.” Wow, I thought. That puts a new spin on how we should come in and teach assertive skills to women. A young waitress overheard Joyce and came to whisper in my ear “My husband and I share the giblet”. So, there seems to be some progress or perhaps certain men are more easily trained. Perhaps we should look for that as one technique of our plan.

I KNOW that in order for women to be equal and treated well, it is NOT just teaching her assertive skills, self-confidence, education and other life skills. It is NECESSARY, NECESSARY, NECESSARY to teach young and not so young men that women are not a threat to them. But ladies, we can’t beat someone at their own game. We have to know how to be assertive, gain education and skills but how to come in the back door with men to get to the front door. As my Grandfather, Luigi Merusi, from Italy used to say “You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar”. We MUST learn and act upon this principle. Hard to do when you have been abused the night before. I don’t have an answer for that but I know what to do to start with young boys.

Technique one: I know from growing up in the 60’s/70’s during the American FEMINIST MOVEMENT that in order for women to be viewed/treated better, we came on too strong, would not let men help them even opening a door for them or anything. We were having a silent, or not so silent, war of the sexes. What I think World Pulse is aptly looking for is a way to make change WITHOUT making war. In other words, to have an inner power and an outer way of handling people and situations that demands respect from everyone. To get ideas, I feel we must talk to men about what would work. They not only know, but it is the beginning of showing respect for them. Studies have shown that when a person is included in the decision making process, they will accept a decision even if their idea is not the one that is selected or used. So, that is one technique right there. Taking the time to develop a small plan is definitely worth the effort and leads to more possibility for a sustainable equality between men and women.

Yes, we must start early with boys.

I talked to BRIAN, an Afro-American 39 year old building manager. He said it is essential that their fathers, uncles or some man close to them take a role in teaching equality towards women. To say “Don’t talk to your mother that way”, “don’t’ say that to your sister”, etc. If a father isn’t present, it is crucial to find a male role model. Consistency and frequency is important. (I don’t know if I totally agree with this. I am a woman, who took Zambian boys, grade 7 and up and taught them myself how to treat women. But it does make sense to include good men as much as we can.) No matter the words a man says to a boy regarding a woman, it is the way a boy SEES a woman being treated by a man that will be his learned lesson. I encourage you to read my post “The Silent Abuse – Invalidation.”

Technique two: I was shocked to hear Jeet, 42 year old Indian tech company owner, tell me that today things have not changed much in developed countries. In businesses he sees in America, men look down on and treat women horribly. If a woman goes and complains to her boss she will get fired. He suggested that women in a company where they are undervalued and abused in one way or another, form their own group, to discuss situations, and as a group go to see the boss. A company won’t fire 50 women at once.

Jeet also said that boys who have sisters MUST be taught by the parent(s) to treat the sister well because in reality the brother and sister are in essence a married couple. The way a boy/young man treats his sister is how he will treat a wife when he marries. This is what he learns is acceptable. So maybe work with brothers and sisters together.

So, you can see why I believe it is important to go to the source. If we want to know how to be treated by men, ASK MEN. Not men who beat you or who hate women, obviously. But not all men do that. It is amazing to me how when I ask a man for advise, how his shoulders firm up and how flattered he is. It sort of softens the relationship right away. Even if I don’t take their advise.

In order to work with boys or girls or ANYONE towards change it is CRUCIAL, absolutely necessary to BE WITH THEM A LOT AND CONSISTENTLY. You cannot show up once a month or every 2-3 months for a few days and expect change. When you leave, everything will go back to the way it was.

I wanted to share with you some of what three of my Zambian “kids” have to say about I AM ONE IN A MILLION’S procedure.

Derick (age 20): third year student at the University of Zambia, planning to be a teacher.

Dear Wendy,

I remember in my early years of being in your company, you would make us write our goals. At that time, we used to call them goals simply because you were in the process of teaching and changing our habits. Meaning it came to my mind that what we used to call as goals were not goals per se but instead they were things that were supposed to be our habits.

Like brushing our teeth so our teeth looked good and our breath didn’t stink. Therefore, from there I came to realized that you were trying to inculcate good values in us so wherever we go we should be people that are respected and presentable.

Also, one of the many other things you taught us was the changing of our mindsets where you instilled confidence in us and stopped us from thinking that we were inferior but to rise to the occasion. For example, you made us shower, and wear smart clothes like shirts and ties and good shoes and belts. You made us to face people, look right into their eyes and shake hands like we are SOMEBODY. You were very aggressive on this. We used to be afraid that if we don’t do things as you suggested that we would land ourselves into problems with you and you would not sponsor us. This was not a bad thing but really it yielded positive results and we are forever proud of you.

The other thing was the respect for women. We came to know your loud and forceful expression LADIES FIRST. Even as of today, whenever I am doing something and that thing involves ladies, I consider myself last and sacrifice for a woman to do it first. This gesture has made a lot of women happy and I have gained the title of being a gentleman.

There are too many life lessons to mention but the last I want to say that has helped you to train us in a more effective manner, is the ability of letting us know the benefit of what you are teaching us in the first place, even before we become used to it. Like reading books. You would tell us that reading improves your mental faculties, your reasoning and it is a good investment of time because you keep developing yourself. Also, you were careful to include books about male-female relationships so we could see the way they should be and then we talked about how to treat a woman.

Love and Ubuntu,


Weaver (age 19): second year business college student.

Dear Wendy,

In relation to your request, I think it is absolutely vital that boys like us should be trained on how to treat women(girls). This is important because it makes women to feel important too. They feel loved and not only that but they see the responsibilities in the boy if they have future intentions like getting married to that person.

Perhaps with the globalization, where culture is transmitted from one group to the other, there are other cultures that allow boys to do housework like cleaning, cooking and even washing. Therefore, with these few responsibilities a boy tends to learn how to take care of himself and transform this to women(girls). It is bad not to train a boy when they are young on how to take care of girls because the majority of those who are not trained become irresponsible when they grow up and get married.

I can remember some of the things you used to tell us when we were younger, like LADIES FIRST if we were going into a store, sitting at the eating table, or in the hotel or a taxi or to the hotel pool. And remember how when it was time to eat at night the boys always made the sandwiches and juice for the girls, served them and cleaned the floor and dishes after each meal, while the girls watched television. With boys developing these habits the girl can notice some caring and responsibleness of boys.

You also taught us to “Feel the fear and do it anyway”. This principle taught us to remove the fear within us. It encouraged us to be strong enough to face the challenge. And you also taught us that when talking to someone you look direct into that person’s eyes, then that person can judge the character in us and it makes us feel special too. Behind this principle is the fact that when you look someone in the eye that other person is not bored with you. They know we are “somebody”.

In conclusion, there is a need for boys to be trained on how to treat women because love emanates out of the good action one can portray to another, no matter if it is a boy or girl. There are times when a woman would fall sick, so what happens if the boy was not trained on how to do petty things like cleaning, serving, etc. And girls will want to be friends with a responsible boy and it encourages a girl to work hard and be smart too. So, I also recommend that we as boys should be trained how to treat women for equal rights and opportunities.

Thank you very much for according me the opportunity to air my views.

Always love you,


Chisanga (age 19): med student at University of Zambia to become a doctor: He writes the following:

Dear Wendy,

The ability to possess the character and traits to treat women to equality does not incur variability from one male to the other. Being able to mentor boys to respect and treat women equally at a tender age has a huge positive effect to how their perception to women will not be biasedly skewed.

It might be astounding for World Pulse members to know that different ethnics teach boys at a very young age to be rude to women as a loophole to weakness. They teach that man should make the decision over even the tiniest matter.

Wendy Stebbins of Chicago frequently comes to Zambia Africa where not all women are treated with the same kind of respect and recognition. During these great and life changing visits to Zambia, Wendy taught us guys to honor the girls of St. Mary’s School and treat them with respect. We (the boys) made peanut butter sandwiches and served them with drinks. It was every evening before watching an inspiring movie. And we did it without any effort to remember or be reminded because it became like a genetic trait.

We always opened the door for the ladies, pulled out the chairs for them at the dinner table. Just like men, women find a sense of being recognized when complimented. And boys/me continue good behaviors when complimented a lot for their new actions. Positive feelings contribute to ones’ esteem and productivity. It might seem insignificant to let women make decisions. It is not! Women have the power and talent that men do, to contribute to development in different areas. It is called equality. Equality remains in training the young boys with a positive perception about women when they are still young.

Thank you.

Chisanga Simwenwa


As mentioned earlier, I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s when the feminine movement towards equality was starting. It was brutal. Women went from subservient doormats to obsessive, aggressive people with no niceness to men at all. So, I am concerned that as we move forward throughout the globe that we do it in a well thought out manner with the long term consequences in mind. There is not enough time to go into all of the techniques or ideas to developing boys to be homogenious with women. Hopefully this is a start. As we look at this complex and multifaceted task, I believe it is crucial to remember that in order for an umbrella to stay open and be its best, each spoke of the umbrella must be working. With human beings, the answer to opening to our full potential is not one thing. Not just education. Not just role modeling. Not just getting along with men. Like a well-functioning umbrella, there are many, many spokes that must be learned and utilized. I think that is one of the mistakes most people make when trying to help an underprivileged person. So, like an umbrella with only a few spokes working, YOU can’t have sustainable progress. Bring Up Boys is an awesome goal and challenge. And if ANYONE can handle and succeed in this endeavor, it is WOMEN. Bring it on!

Comments 7

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Feb 14, 2018
Feb 14, 2018

This is awesome. You are beautiful. Thank you for the great work you are doing in Zambia. I am very happy to read your post. I have also learned from it too.

Jill Langhus
Feb 15, 2018
Feb 15, 2018

Hi Wendy. Thanks for sharing your work and story. You may want to submit your story for the WP story awards under the call for entries for "Bringing Up Boys" which ends tonight at 11:59 PM PST. Your submission needs to show up under the following link to be considered, though: Good luck!!!

Mar 05, 2018
Mar 05, 2018

Hello Wendy Thank you so much for sharing your practical teaching this take on changing boys attitude to girls hence men's attitude to women That is the root young men seeing young women as equal I just love the way you watched observed then taught the young people Good luck with empowering these young people 

Mar 05, 2018
Mar 05, 2018


Thank you for your heartwarming words. Means a lot to me. Good luck to you.



Ubuntu is a southern Africa word meaning "I am who I  am because of who we are".

Tola Makinde
Feb 07, 2019
Feb 07, 2019

Thank you for sharing. It's so heart warming to read your story about bringing up boys

Wendy Stebbins
Feb 08, 2019
Feb 08, 2019

Hello Tola,

Thank you for writing. I almost never hear from anyone so have stopped writing articles basically. So your reply meant a lot.

I want you to know that I am honored to hear from you. What you do is absolutely amazing, simply amazing. I read your page and I could not get over how incredible you are and what a wonderful attitude you have.
Keep up the great work and know that God is smiling down on you, proud and grateful that he put you on earth.

Love and ubuntu,


Tola Makinde
Feb 08, 2019
Feb 08, 2019

Hello Wendy, I feel so encouraged too by your words. Do not be discouraged. I should have been a poet as I started writing in my teens. Nobody understood me. My parents just thought I should read hard to become a doctor. I lost the skills after I clocked 26 years. I didn't believe it. I only wrote love stories and not for the world to read. Look at me today. My story is changing many lives because of what I did with the mess I thought I found myself. I became a messenger. Last year I started writing a book, I still struggle but I'll be fine. I know the world is waiting to read my story. Keep at it, nature will answer,
I started writing again in 2014.... It's about my lemonade story. People are reading, don't stop.

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