Commentary: August Meeting: A Tool For Women Empowerment And Rural Development

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Women from all over the world, especially the married Igbo women, have, at various times in August, flocked home or are about to go to their respective villages for their annual meeting. It is during this meeting that decisions are made for the betterment of the Igbo women and their respective communities at large. The August meeting is taken very serious, to the extent that anyone who fails to attend, pays heavy fine.

The concept of this meeting evolved from the annual mass return. The mass return was for every citizen – men, women, youths and children. The women however, conceived the idea of August meeting as a platform to make their contributions to the development of their communities.

Before long, the concept had spread and it has become a rallying point for women in service of their communities. The women used their organizational skills to raise funds, used for the reconstruction of schools, hospitals, markets and civic centres in their respective towns.

The objectives for the formation of this August meeting include; settlement of disputes among fellow women in the community, treating of infidelity issues involving offending wives, resolution of conflicts involving physical fights between parties, penalizing assaults or physical attacks of a wife on her mother-in-law and other issues under their jurisdiction. It also contributes to the promotion and development of the community in terms of building of schools, Town Halls and giving of alms to indigent widows and orphans.

The history of August meeting among the Igbo women shows that it has not always been a smooth story to tell about their conducts, activities and achievements. Its convocation has its own challenges and difficulties.

The first criticism the women’s annual reunion faced and still faces is that it some of them are mere “fashion show” for some women of class to showcase their husband’s affluence or indeed theirs. Without doubts, some of the annual gathering shifted from being an issue-oriented one and a conscious effort at community building, to one in which some married women from all walks of life flock back home to what could best be described as a “big jamboree”.

Some abroad women carry themselves with an air, stamping their superiority over home-based women and it is a thing of pride for some home-based grannies to have abroad daughters-in-law who they show off at the August meeting. Women who did not turn in their best or whose best are not good enough or meet the prevailing standard, are treated as second class and their opinion in the meeting are more often than not disregarded.

In consequence, instead of some of these women coming back from the meetings better equipped to face their roles as mothers and wives, some of them have been found to be more vain, emptier and materialistic with no evidence of improvement, which has made some men literally ban their wives from attending any of such meetings.

As we are in the month of August, a month so unique to all Igbo women as regards to August meeting, women should not use their positions financially or politically to cause disaffection or troubles in their various communities. They should desist from picking quarrels, especially where there is none, with their co-wives, husband’s, traditional rulers, town union executives and even among themselves.

They should make sure that the opportunities offered by “August meeting” bring peace, unity and development. The meeting should not be used to pursue matters that are inimical to the purpose and principles of the gathering. August meetings should be used to correct the bad impressions, which women are known for. This will go a long way in restoring the dignity of womanhood and give women, a pride in the scheme of things.

WRITTEN BY BENJAMIN OBINUGWU

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