4/12/2011

Igbo Women And Social Status

NdiIgbo prize their womenfolk. Yet, a woman in Igbo culture is not accorded full
social recognition, no matter her status in life. Unless she is married and proves
to the 'world' that she is a woman by bearing children or at least a child
(though debatable). To ndiIgbo, it conforms with the biblical injuction of
'Be Fruitful and Multiply, and fill the earth'.

For example, marriage to an Igbo woman is a protective armour against disrespect
and remarks about her. A non-married woman is looked upon disparagingly even by
her fellow women.

Marriage confers on Igbo woman so many privileges which an unmarried woman would
not get. It enables her to belong to many societies like women cultural dancing
group. This is exclusively to married women, association of all married women
within a family etc.
For example, for a woman to be married, is for her to climb the first ladder to
social recognition. People say about her such as 'okwa nwunye mmadu'
(she is somebody's wife) when one is about to or make an unwholesome remark  
about her.
Igbo women are women of substance and it is an abomination and outright stupidity
to beg any non Igo woman to become Igbo.
It is interesting to note that some of the associations and classified social set
up are used to mobilise women at grassroots level. For administrative purposes,
through such organisations, decisions pertaining to women at family (umunna) or
village meetings are conveyed to them through any of the mentioned associations.
 

Igbo women like their male counterpart, are traditionally very industrious. They
are versatile in farming, trade and handicrafts. The main crops cultivated by
women are cocoyam, rice, cassava, vegetables, beans. They plant plantain and and
banana stems. They process oil palm nuts for palm oil, crack the nuts for kernel
which they use for cosmetics, some are sold for cash; but it is an abomination for
women to climb palm trees in Alaigbo.

In most traditional Igbo homes, every house wife has her own poultry.

Custom demands that apart from the attention they give to their poultry, no
traditional Igbo woman stays outside her matrimonial home after cocks have
gone to roost. That is one of the ETHICS OF IGBO CULTURE.

Nothwithstandingly, the Igbo society is changing as the world is changing. A lot
of Igbo women now are career women and involved in jobs that make them to keep
late hours. For example, some Igbo women involved in nursing professions do run
different shift patterns. It could be late or night shifts and it is understandable
and acceptable. But when an Igbo woman leaves her husband's house to go and watch
home videos in neighbours house every night may not be acceptable. If reported,
umunna will wield their powers.


Igbo women are good traders. They trade mainly on food items-cassava, fish,
differenttypes of spices, vegetables.
They are good potters. They produce different types of pots for cooking and
storage of water. They produce musical instruments such as 'udu'.

Igbo women are good in handicrafts. They knit mats . They manufacture soap and
cosmetics such as ude aku (palm oil cream), uli etc.
They weave textile materials such as 'Akwete'.

Igbo women are indeed very very industrious. They support their husbands in home
management and upkeep. They contribute to the economic well being of the family.

The Igbo women, just like the Jewish women, are the ones who teach their children
Igbo culture. Some of the practices in place are being to taught to Igbo children
by their mothers. That women do not plant yam and only men do in Igbo culture are
some of the examples, no worries to them.


I will not rule out that the wind of change blowing from the western world to
third world countries is not reaching Igboland, especially women emancipation
gender equality etc.

The Igbo societies are not static. As the wind of change is blowing across the
globe, Igboland is affected as well. Wife beating is no longer the norm now.
In the past, in keeping with the Igbo view of female nature, the group allowed
wife beating. According to Igbo belief. women by nature required to be tamed and
streamlined by regular beating so that atmosphere at home and outside should
remain orderly. In Things fall Apart-Achebe described how Okonkwo beat his second
wife for not coming home to make his meal. Though Okonkwo was punished but only
because he beat her during the week of peace.
 
 
This is certainly something which will lead to discussions!
 

9 comments:

  1. "Wife beating is no longer the norm now.
    In the past, in keeping with the Igbo view of female nature, the group allowed
    wife beating. According to Igbo belief. women by nature required to be tamed and
    streamlined by regular beating so that atmosphere at home and outside should
    remain orderly."

    The above claim is far from the truth! Wife-beating is an abomination (nso ana) Back in the day, the aggressor husband would be given a taste of his medicine by the men of the wife's family. A masquerade would also give him a taste. Also, the wife's family would physically remove her from her abuser -husband and if he wanted her back, he would have to do so with a pot of wine, accompanied by his family. If all else fails, she would be permanently divorced from him with return of the bride prize which frees the woman to re marry.

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    Replies
    1. I write from pennsyvania and i am pleased that you have said exaclty what I was going to say. it is an abomination in Igboland to beat your wife and assume that it is the right/husbandly thing to do is ask the question 'Nwanyi a onwekwere nmadu?' meaning is 'does the woman has relatives' Christianity actually condoned wife beating because women were encouraged by their pastors to pray for the man or to accept whatever the man did because he is the head of the family. Igbo tradition look down on a man who beats his wife.

      Delete
    2. I beg to differ. Read "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe, and you will see what is correct.
      As for Christianity condoning wife beating -
      I do not know what type of Christianity that is.

      Delete
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  4. A loT of women in the rular areas are still suffering in the hands men.Some igbo cultures aganst the women have not changed some still believe that women education ends in one man's kitchen.

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  6. Thanks this helped :)

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