The Igbo Woman And Her Plight
We all go about saying and believing we live in the 21st century, the era of civilization in Nigeria and Africa in general. We believe we now have so many educated people in our society. The truth is that we have people who went through school, acquired degrees, without allowing school to pass through them.
I was reading an article sometime back on the issue of the Osu caste system in Igbo land. I read something about many great brains coming from the east; I agree with this. But it is very painful when you have those great and educated minds getting involved in some barbaric practices and even standing to encourage them.
I remember a man who is in the middle of his Phd work sending me some terrible messages because I spoke out against the practice of Osu caste system in Igbo land. He first asked to know if I am Osu and when he confirmed I am not one, he went ahead talking in ignorance. I was so pissed off that I unconsciously told him that he is a disgrace to education and to God, the maker of mankind.
I am not here today to talk about the Osu caste system and its madness, but about the plight of the girl child in Igbo land. I have noticed one thing among the Igbos; education plays a very minor role in our lives and mindset. In fact, our behaviours as easterners to a greater extent are determined by upbringing and not education.
After my last Friday’s article on the way we treat people before and after death and the things widows go through in the hands of in-laws, a man from the South-south called me amidst pain and tears. This man lamented the ordeal of his late wife in the hands of her relations who are from the east. I am yet to fix a meeting with this man who is in so much pain because of some obsolete and barbaric traditions. I shall, by the grace of God handle these devilish traditions one after the other.
Having looked into the other Nigerian tribes, it appears to me that we, the Igbos, have the worst tradition when it comes to the issue of the girl child.
Let us start from the moment a woman gets married. Have you listened to our fathers pray during traditional marriages? All you hear is, “you shall have Okereke and Okarafor…Iseeee”. This is the number one proof that the girl child is seen as nothing in the Igbo culture. The woman gets into her husband’s house only to start praying for a male child due to the pressure she gets, even from her own mother. Your in-laws agree that you are well settled in your husband’s house only when you have a male child.
As the children are growing up, the girl child is taught that her place in life is in a man’s kitchen and so she must put the kitchen before the school. I agree that every woman needs some good housekeeping and cooking skills. But where we have the girl child drop out of school because she must get married and help train her siblings in school; I don’t know what to say.
Many Igbo men today misbehave because they believe they are childless as the woman keeps giving birth to female children. Many marriages packed up simply because the woman was unable to have a male child. In those days, our fathers freely took second wives, but the case is different for some men who are now religious leaders and as such cannot take second wives. A friend recently told me about a very rich Igbo man who lives here in Lagos, but does not travel to his hometown because he is made to feel he is not a full-fledged man without a son. This is one of the numerous miserable conditions our tradition has kept people in.
I remember a woman, a relation to the man I was married to, actually making a foolish comment to the hearing of my mother when I had my first child; a female. She laughed and said, “Why is Amara giving birth to a female child when she is expected to have a male child first?” Today, I have two girls and two boys, but the woman’s daughter who got married about six years ago has none today. Most times we forget we are still humans and talk like God.
A reader called me just last week to narrate his story to me. This man has four girls who are all doing wonderfully well today. He told me how other women were coming to his wife to remind her she was not safe without a male child. Thank God for this wonderful man who continued assuring her of his love and support for her. Today, they are all married and are lawyers, biochemist, and chartered accountant.
A good number of Igbo men still believe life is not complete without a male child. This has led them to torture their wives as if they are the ones responsible for their so-called ordeal. Sir, you are the one who decides the sex of your child. It is what you put into the woman she gives out. The woman has XX chromosomes while you have XY chromosomes. If you give out your X, it goes to meet any of her own chromosomes and the result is a female child. But if you give out your Y chromosome, it meets with any of her X and that is when you have a baby boy. Now you agree with me that your wife does not deserve that ill-treatment she is getting from you.
If you are not proud of your girl child, why stretch your legs and clear your throat when it’s time for her bride price to be paid? Some men see their female daughters as another good in the warehouse. In fact, I have heard some Igbo men call their daughters by that name; it is a shameful thing.
You don’t want to appreciate the fact that your wife gave birth to girls, but you have the audacity to sit and collect millions as bride price. Some men see their daughters’ marriage as an occasion to make money. This is why you have a lot of mature Igbo ladies still very single as the men are now scared of all the expenses to be incurred during engagement. Some even add their own on top only for them to sell them after the marriage.
How do you think your daughter will feel by the time she realises that her father left nothing for her? The Igbo culture believes a woman is just an extra to humanity. They believe she has no portion in her father’s house and the same thing happens when she gets to her husband’s house. A girl child is made to believe she lives just to get married and raise children.
You can make yourself different by having your daughter inherit some things from you. It is not enough giving her the best car on her wedding day; she should have something to hold on to in her father’s house. Let us stop this ill-treatment being meted out on the girl child. I feel terribly bad about this issue and I think it’s time we made the change. Our educated men should begin to act educated and treat women the way they should be treated; as human beings.