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The Evolution Of Women In Nigeria

1516 words - 7 pages

Throughout the centuries, the roles of Nigerian women have continuously evolved. During the pre- colonial era, women in Nigerian tribes were not only child bearers and wives, but also free adults. They played critical roles in food preparation, weaving, pottery, and the economy. However, the impact of British rule in Nigeria made a significant shift from the pre-colonial to the post- colonial era. The influence of the Catholic Church, Western style education, patriarchal government and modern ways of making money took a major toll in a woman’s role in society. As demonstrated in the history and literature of Nigeria, society can clearly witness the setbacks and growths of Nigerian women experienced. This literary paper’s purpose is to analyze how these women came to be, what exactly caused to evolve, and where they stand in today’s society.
The history of Nigeria before the 1900’s is critical in exploring the effects of colonialism. During the pre-colonial era, Nigeria was mainly divided into three tribes: Igbo, Yoruba, and Hausa Fulani. A female’s role differed according to kinship structure of the tribe and the status of the woman in the economy. Neither new nor peculiar, women have long been regarded as the “subordinate” class in Nigerian culture. However, Nigerian women were able to achieve high statuses by lineage or marrying into ruling class families. Under customary laws, a woman’s purpose was to be fertile and able to bear children. Tribes expected their women to marry into Igbo, Yoruba, and Hausa Fulani patrilineage and bear sons to guarantee the future of the tribe. A wife’s position improved as she gave birth to more children and gained approval from elder members. Women who could not were scorned just as Mama was in Purple Hibiscus. In the novel, “members of [Mama’s] umunna sent people to [her husband] to urge him to have children with someone else” (Adichie). In consequence, Nigerian culture and traditions recognizes polygamous unions under civil law.
Although they were classified to be in a subordinate class, these women also played a significant and crucial part in social and economic activities. Since labor was divided by gender, Nigerian women were in charge of food preparation, weaving, pottery making, and trade while men worked in the fields. Women enhanced their power in trade by making a living through their skills and believed that they fulfilled their responsibilities for the tribe by contributing to the family’s income (Chuku). For example, Igbo pottery was not only orientated toward ritual but also utilitarian use. As a result, this created a high demand for pottery and let women enter the field of craftsmanship. Furthermore, the females’ critical roles were also highlighted in the novel Purple Hibiscus. Only female figures prepared and cooked food. This demonstrates that through this domestic position, women had the sole and complete control of meals and the health of their families. Author Adichie uses Mama...

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