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Traditional Institutions For Women

Author: nick on 13-09-2013, 17:00, views: 5 361

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Ibibio women had their autonomous organisation, parallel to that of the men (Noah, 1985; Akpan & Ekpo, 1988: Ekpo). In the Ibibio section of the local government, there are some traditional institutions which are mainly for women. Such institutions include Ebre, Ibaan Isong, Nkerebe, Asian Uba Ikpa.

 

Ebre Society

 

The word ebre means water yam. This food crop is cultivated by the women, in contrast with the other kinds of yam, which are planted and owned by men in the family. Why the traditional play ebre was so called, is not clearly understood. Some authors have suggested that the name given to the most important women cultural society, was chosen to check the stealing of this particular women's crop. The society was restricted to married women of proven integrity. It had the mandate to maintain and regulate the conduct of the members, ensuring proper discipline and good behaviour of the members.

 

Ibaan Isong Society

 

Ibaan Isong (the women of the land) was the most potent women organisation, used for winning political, economic and social privileges for women. The organisation could move and attack a man, who maltreated his wife. The sit in on a man by the Ibaan Isong, as reported by Noah (1985), amounted to declaration of war with the man. All the women in the village would gather together and lay siege at the man's compound. Crops found in the compound would be harvested and consumed for as long as the matter remained unresolved. The man would be abused with every kind of offensive language and the women would tell all kinds of rumour against him, whether true or false, just to provoke him. Such rumours included the man's lack of virility, inability to cater for his family or his being a known thief. The women could go in large numbers and almost completely naked, to register their protest against any wrong doing visited on them, or on any of them.

 

The Position of Women
 
Every Ibibio man needed a son to inherit his property, when he died, and to continue the idip ete ufok (family) and ekpuk (kinship) lineage, above everything else. No sane Ibibio man would marry only one wife, who might prove barren, or have a few sons, who were not sure to survive: the possession of many children was an indication of wealth and status in Ibibio society. Children also helped parents in farm work and represented old age security for their parents.
(Udoh, 1972: 165)
  
A high premium was placed on the Ibibio wives' fidelity. Stiff neck fever was considered a sign to the husband, that 'the wife has gone out'. Tt meant that the ancestors, ekpo nka owo, were beating the husband on the neck to kill him for not cross-checking the fidelity of his wives. This was a serious matter, which could lead to the death of the husband or a small child in the family. (Akpaide. 1982)
 
An Ibibio married woman belonged to her father's lineage, village and clan and not to that of her husband. The land of her husband's lineage was not her own, but that of her sons. 
 
Her right over six feet of earth in her father's house was none to dispute and was given to her by her ikan (the ancestors), who ordered that their daughter must be buried by their side, in order to serve them in the world beyond. Her fate was sanctioned by her entire village or clan and by the father and head of her lineage.

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Category: Tradition and Culture

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