Women have always played a very important role in the Igbo Society, even though many unruly narratives have sprung from different places to distort this fact. Some people are being misled into having the notion that in the pre-colonial Igbo Society, women were treated as inferior beings who were slightly more than a property to be owned. These distortions in our history and ignorance about the roles women have always played in our society is the hall mark of this article.
In today’s society, women are pretty much into the scheme of things because they go to school, graduate, have jobs, earn money, and partake in almost everything like the men in addition to being mothers or wives. There is a narrative that this present scheme of things is very different from what it has been in pre-colonial Igbo society. These narratives are largely as a result of ignorance. Although it could be said that the igbo society was largely a patriarchal one, it was far from being very chauvinistic to women and gender bigotry was certainly not woven into the firmament of the Igbo culture.
The Igbo Society has always been a republican society where every group of persons, ranging from the age grades, men in general, women and even children had their importance and their role. And it can be argued that whatever severe cases of women marginalization (as can be seen in all cultures) which took place in the Igbo society was by and by, largely an individual thing and not something encouraged by the Igbo society.
The Igbo society was sustained mainly on farming and trading. And there were indeed as many female traders as there were males! The culture of women being housewives have always been alien to our people and this has become more predominant after the coming of the colonial masters. This is because the women in the Igbo society of old partook in the economy as much as they do today,if not more. The families were usually very large, that often, the man was not able to provide for them all consistently. And so the women were also breadwinners. There is a certain importance which comes with a person who is up and doing. Many Igbo women have always been serious with their ventures and so were our mothers of old. Many of them were serious in their trades and made enough money to make them wealthy. Some of them took titles meant for high achieving women in the society, some of them built houses in lands belonging to their husbands. Even in the Igbo family setting, a group of women who come from the family and are married to other families are referred to as Umuada. There is usually no big decision which is taken in the family without consulting the umuada. They have been known to preside over serious issues and their opinions are not taken lightly.
It can be said in Igbo land, the role of the women are and have always been very important. They play important roles in the family, economically, politically and administratively. It is true that a lot of progress have been made politically as compared to the previous times when the politics was more patriarchal but then, progress, it is said , is an integral part of humanity. History has shown that women played more important and outspoken roles in Igbo society, and many other African civilizations that in Europe,