In a society

In a society, every human being has his importance and his role to play in each domain. Throughout the course of history, women have created and developed many ways to participate in social life. Although a significant amount of time has passed between pre-colonialism and post colonialism, women have managed to keep a high status in the domains of economics and religion. In the Nigerian society, women are perceived as very important, mostly concerning the economics and the religion in both traditional and modern life.
The Role of Women in the Economics in the Nigerian Society
The term traditional life is most of the time used to describe a period of time in which a country only lived with its resources and its beliefs. The traditional life of the citizen of Nigeria would be before the British came to impose their civilization, before colonialism. During the pre-colonial era, women played many roles that contributed to the development of the economics of the country. In each ethnic group, women had specific roles to play. For example, in the Igbo pre-colonial economy, agriculture, non-agricultural production and trade were the main sectors. In these critical economy sectors, women played very key and indispensable roles. In the agricultural domain, women would farm, collect crops or do some labour. A wide range of tuber crops were cultivated by the Igbo farmers in the pre-colonial period. Among these crops, yam was the crop associated to men and cocoyam and the rest were termed « women crops », probably because they were the easiest to deal with. There were two reasons why the women dominated he planting of agricultural crops other than yam. The first reason was that men who ventured to cultivate crops other than yam were viewed and rated as effeminate in character. The other reason is women’s desire to meet the feeding demands of her family. Since men are mainly concentrated on yam cultivation, women have to ensure the availability of a well balanced diet made up of tuber and vegetable crops rich in protein, vitamin and other nutrients by cultivating other crops. There are also women farmers who are very ambitious and hard working and own their own farms. The variety and size of crops available in those farms would determine the nature and character of the welfare of her family. Besides, it tended to enhance the economic capacity of the woman. A woman producer of non-yam crops enjoyed the benefit of making generous harvest of some or particular crop. This simply meant that her family enjoyed variety in their dishes regularly and had enough of the surplus for sale to make money to run other affairs of the family.
Still in the light of agriculture, women were involved in traded and migrant labor that took place from late 19th century to early 20th century. These tasks ranged from bush clearing, mound making, crop planting, weeding, yam staking and crop harvesting. Among these variety of duties, women specialized in crop planting, weeding and harvesting of crops. Weeding took place about three or four times in a year. This reduced the chances of farm crops competing and clamoring for available soil nutrients with wild weeds or grasses in the farmland. They also assisted to the transportation of the crops from the farmstead to the homestead we they were stored, participated in crop planting and in crop harvesting.
Women were also in control of important economic activities in the Igbo non-agricultural sector. This sector, involved economic activities such as smithery, sculpture, pottery, mat-making, salt-making, cloth weaving, cloth dyeing and fish smoking. Pottery is said to be the oldest traditional craft in Igbo societies and was not a skill everyone had. Therefore, pottering was reserved exclusively to women since they had the technique and their small fingers allowed them to create fine craftings. Igbo potters produced a wide range of earthen wares, for various uses. There were pots of various sizes, such as cooking pots, of various sizes and shapes, water pots of various sizes and shapes too.
Regarding mat-making, it was a very delicate activity. There were several steps and stages and mat-makers had to have a lot of patience and the work always had to be neat. Sleeping mats were of varying sizes. Sizes like six meters in length and five meters in width would cost one shilling in the 1940s said Ude Okoronkwo, a retired mat-maker which would be 5.12 sterlings. Salt production and cloth weaving were also other activities assured by women.
All the products made by these women then had to be sold. Trade in Igbo land was all about buying and selling various items or commodities by traders. There were two types of trading in Igbo land: local and long distance trading. For local trading, women controlled the sale of these items at the local trading centers and most of these crops were the one they made. The commodities involved in the long distance trade included slaves, salt, cloth, horses, sleeping and roofing mats, smoked fishes and palm produce. Other items traded were products of sculptors were also traded. As an example of trader, there is Efunroye Tinubu who was the wealthiest woman of the 19th century. She used to be a slave but then started a carrier as a trader.
The term modern life is here used to describe the post-colonial life of Nigerian societies. During this period, women started to play active roles in various aspects of the nation. The arrival of education in the country was a major change in the economics. The fact of sending young girls to school provides more chances for them to succeed in the future which has a positive effect on the economics of the country. Nowadays, due to the development, women are no longer perceived as housewives who only have to clean the house and cook meals. Women’s status improved a lot within the society. Consequently, Nigeria today can boast of female lawyers, doctors, ministers, engineers… that are daily active in the society and do their best to develop and make their country better. Women like Folorunsho Alakija or Haija Bolo Shagaya are one of the wealthiest women of Nigeria who earned all their fortune from working and permitted the economics and the country itself to be more developed.
The most important thing that they do is giving birth. Woman are the only creatures capable of keeping children in their stomach during 9 months and then give birth. This phenomenon keeps the birth rate of a country high and brings more people to contribute to the development of the country. With an increase in the population, more jobs are occupied which leads to an important boost in the economics of Nigeria.
However, activities like agriculture or trade are still present in the modern life and women still take part in them. As an example, there is the young girls in Joys of Motherhood that were selling groundnuts in the city, Lagos. This shows that even activities from villages that still take place in cities are undertaken by women.
The Role of Women in Religion in Nigeria
The women in traditional religions, and in Christianity have the diverse ways through which they play active roles. In some Igbo communities women were Priestesses. Merriam-Webster defined a priestess as « a woman who is authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion and is regarded as a leader ». These priestesses provided prayers to families and their community, consult the oracles to provide directions and instructions to the rest of society to tell them how everything will unfold. Women are also traditional healers. They make drinks and antidotes for ill women and children. They also help pregnant women to deliver their babies. Women traditional rulers are also found in Nigeria. They controlled the affairs of the traditional states as well as their religions. There are three categories of traditional rulers. The first category is the “substantive women traditional rulers”, the second category are the “one that are comprised of those who operate in a dual-sex political system”. This system has a kind of dual political system. In other words, it has two types of traditional rulers based on gender. As female kings they are also priestesses and the ritual leaders of their communities. They are expected to protect the male kings through ritual purifications. The third category is the “comprised of those who act as regent at the demise of male traditional rulers”. During this period of regency, they act as the rulers as well as the religious leaders of their communities.
Amongst the Christians, the women play very active roles concerning the churches and even the welfare of the priests. Some women contribute to the finding of new places to transform them into churches. Others, the « women Ministry », make the well being of the Pastors their responsibility. They would cook food and bring it to church for the Priests and the other church workers who had been there all day.
Rituals are also very important in the Nigerian traditional societies. Women from Onitsha, which is a village in Nigeria, are extremely present during these rituals. The kola ceremony, the adultery confession, the dispute settlement are all ceremonies that are most of the time led by women. Other ceremonies took place that were led by men but even during those, women found their way to be present. Their role during these ceremonies would consist mainly in preparing and giving food to the men. They are also responsible for washing the kola nuts before they present them to the rituals.
Overtime, a majority of the Nigerian population abandoned the traditional beliefs to mostly focus on Christianity and Islam. In towns like Anambra state, women are involved in a lot of church projects and any types of taxes or fees related to church building funds through meetings. In addition to that, « a good number of modern day churches are beginning to support women’s ordination as Pastors and Ministers of the gospel and encourage women to hold positions of leadership» said an article from Bright Hub Education.
Due to the arrival of education, women are now able to share their religion or traditions through writing books, articles, speaking during conferences or speeches or even through the creation of associations or groups which can lead to more people interesting themselves to religion and being more into it. Amina Salihu and Oluwafunmilayo Josephine Para-Mallam are respectively the authors of the articles « The Rights of Women in a Religious Society; Focusing on Nigeria A Civil Society and Muslim Perspective” and « Faith gender and development agenda is in Nigeria conflicts challenges and opportunities ». The people who read those articles were informed and now know more about the culture and religion in Nigeria and could also be tempted, like the authors, to decide to create associations or write articles themselves to make people around them more aware.
In the final analysis, due to the all the explanations done about the role of women in economics and religion throughout two different time periods in the previous paragraphs, one can see and realize that women do a lot in those two domains. Women played main and active roles in the economics and religion in Nigeria, during pre-colonialism and post-colonialism and thus, are very important.


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