FOURTH ANNUAL CONFERENCE AND MEETING
October 31 - November 2, 2003
By Rose Aziza, Ph.D.
* * *
Aziza, Ph.D., Abraka, Delta State, Nigeria. Chair
L.O. Obiomah, Warri, Delta State, Nigeria
Helen Ekeh, Ph.D., Buffalo, New York, U.S.A.
Felicia Emesiri - Akusu, Brussels, Belgium
Alice Ukoko, L.L.B (Hons), London, England
LEADERSHIP IN URHOBOLAND
discussion began with a call for a distinction between two types of
traditional Urhobo world and the western/westernized world.
Traditional Urhobo communities are governed by the Council of Chiefs or Council of Elders, membership of which is overwhelmingly men. Only very few old women are ‘privileged’ to be members. Women have never led such Councils in any of the 22 clans that make up the Urhobo nation and are not likely to lead them in the foreseeable future. Leadership of such fora is regarded as the exclusive preserve of men. Although it was recognized that the Eghweya (i.e., Council of Wives) and Emetẹ (i.e., Council of Daughters) are powerful organs in the running of affairs in any Urhobo community, only men lead these communities. Tradition! al Urhobo setting regards the woman as a property of the man and can be shared just like his other assets such as his houses, clothes, furniture, etc. in the event of his death. No matter how young a man is, he plays the leadership role. For instance, he speaks on behalf of the women in a gathering made of both men and women; he presents or receives the kolanut offered the group, even if his own mother is a member of such a group; he prays on their behalf and can take kolanut from the plate where his own mother cannot: she has to be given the kolanut by a man. Thus, in traditional Urhobo society, the woman can only lead a group of women, not where both men and women are involved.
In the westernized Urhobo setting, it was observed that women are grossly under-represented in education, government, politics, business, etc. While it is possible to count the number of women who have excelled in their various fields (because they are few), it is not possible to do the same with the men. The reason is mainly due to the fact that sons were the first to be favoured in education and exposure. Although it was agreed that the Urhobo woman of today is making great progress and competing favourably with the man, a lot more still needs to be done to help the woman reach greater heights.
It was recognized that a number of barriers stand in the way of the woman in her aspiration to a leadership position. The following are some of them:
Male Fears of Loss of Status in the Face of Well-to-do
Balancing the Demands of Work and Family
This can be very difficult for the woman. She is central to the home and requires to spend a lot of time to see to its smooth and successful running. On the other hand, to excel in the workplace, she needs to spend a lot of time and energy doing her job and engaging in training and retraining activities necessary to better equip her for higher positions. For example, as an academic, the woman needs to prepare her lectures, teach, carry out administrative duties that may be assigned to her in the workplace, be up to date with developments in her field by reading and writing books and journal articles, attending conferences, etc.All these are in addition to managing her home. An understanding man who wants to encourage ! his wife to excel would appreciate these demands on her time, energy and health and try to help her with some of the chores at home and even with the job if he understands it. On the other hand, some men would not care how the woman copes. Many women complained that when both husband and wife return from the office at the same time, while the woman rushes into the kitchen to prepare the meal and see to other needs of the family without even taking off her clothes, the man has time to undress, maybe take a shower and relax in the sitting room reading the newspapers or watching television and impatiently waiting for his food. However, some men pointed out that while trying to help their women with household chores, other women were the first to be derogatory and call them ‘woman wrapper’. The point was also made that some of these barriers were the result of envy by fellow women and not necessarily created by the men.Fear of Adultery
OTHER ISSUES RAISEDa) The role of women in forging leadership in Urhobholand in the future.
It was agreed that women have a great role to play in forging leadership in Urhoboland as there can be no meaningful development of a society without the active participation of its women. Therefore, rather than look down at the Urhobo woman as inferior to her male counterpart, she should be seen as a partner in progress who should be encouraged to contribute her quota to moving Urhoboland forward. To achieve this, the following were suggested:
iv) Legislation. It was observed that although
It was observed
that since Urhobo language is an identity marker and the embodiment of
cultural heritage, it should serve as a unifying factor and any
leadership must recognize the central role it plays in the life of the
and we must all work towards sustaining it. We cannot talk of
the leaders and the led have different mother tongues and display
cultures. Language controls the thought process and since leadership is
relevant to a particular society, only those who know the language with
the society expresses its needs and aspirations can effectively lead
societies. When the language of the society dies, its people lose their
identity and so that society also dies. Therefore, the Urhobo language
central to forging and maintaining leadership in Urhoboland. For
be effective, everyone has to speak the same language, i.e., Urhobo. It
agreed that women have a central role to play in bringing up their
Urhobo language and culture since they spend more time with the
the men. The fact that the native language of an individual is called
mother tongue underscores this point. However, it was also emphasized
women cannot do it effectively without the full support of their men.
husband must support the wife’s efforts by helping to enforce the use
Urhobo language, at least in the home and the children should be
their rich cultural heritage.<>
Women's Roundtable at the Fourth Annual Conference of Urhobo Historical
was a very exciting and rewarding session. But time was not on our
session had to be cut short to allow for other activities.
I wish to thank everyone that made the session so lively, particularly the members of the panel. I also wish to thank immensely the organizers for the honour of making me chair such a distinguished session.
May God bless us all of us and may God bless Urhoboland and its people.
ROSE ORO AZIZA, Ph.D.