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Archive for August 9th, 2008

AUGUST MEETING JAMBOREE ‘08

 

By Sylva Nze Ifedigbo

It’s August again and in Nigeria women from the Southeastern parts of the country resident in various parts of the country and indeed abroad are preparing for one particular annual ritual, the August Meeting.

Let me attempt here for the benefit of those who might not be very familiar with this all important annual ritual a brief description of what it is all about.  Its been the practice since God knows when for Igbo speaking women (who hail predominantly from the Southeastern part of the Country) to gather once a year in a grand meeting that lasts for days to discuss and deliberate on issues that affect them commonly and bring up suggestions/ ideas on how to tackle their problems and help the advancement of the entire community in general.  Participation is the exclusive reserve of married women from the community and it is compulsory (or so their constitution says) for every one to attend. The period for this meeting is usually the month of August.

Various communities, villages and towns as the case may be usually fix the dates for their meeting at their own convenience and for varying durations such that usually the whole month of August is a beehive of activity for women in the entire eastern region of Nigeria.

The aim of the annual gathering as stated above is for the good of the women folk and the community. The idea behind this concept is superb and indeed, this would have been a lesson for the rest of the world in the participation of women in the stimulation of communal growth which is a veritable aspect of the Millennium Development Goals.

I say “would have been” because these days it is clear that the annual gathering no more achieves any of its aims as emphasis has shifted from it being a conscious effort at community building to it assuming the status of a very big jamboree.

In writing this piece, I cannot deny my silent fears that I am about courting some kind of trouble with our dear Mothers who might not take lightly with my calling their big gathering a Jamboree. Sincerely, I offer my deepest apologies. I had thought about writing this a couple of times but had not managed to get my self to. The push to finally put pen on paper came yesterday following a discussion I over heard between some women at the office where I am carrying out my national youth service.

One of the ladies had mentioned that she was taking a whole week off so as to be able to attend these years August Meeting. Whether or not she was giving permission to leave by the boss, she made it clear she was going to be away as she had made up her mind to be at this years gathering having missed the last five gatherings.  Why must she be there one of the other ladies who is not Igbo asked. Her mother in-law had decreed that she must be there so that she-the mother in-law-can also feel and show that she also has some one abroad. 

In igbo parlance the word “abroad” stood for any one who lived out side Igbo land and such persons are often treated with respect and cordiality. The abroad women carried themselves with an air, stamping their superiority to the home-based women and it was a thing of pride for every home-based granny to have an abroad daughter in-law who she showed off at the August Meeting.

Why hasn’t she been attending the meetings? Another woman asked. The lady‘s answer was that she had simply not been ready enough. For this year’s meeting however, she said she was well prepared. Being prepared here meant that she had acquired the latest lace and Hollandis wrapper and the appropriate gold jewelries to go with them.  She had only recently bought a new car- a Honda IvTec- and no time was better to attend the meeting and let the world know that she too had arrived.

That summarized the jamboree status the August Meeting ritual now enjoys. I think I once saw a home movie on the issue. The annual gathering has in effect turned from an issue oriented one to one in which ladies from all over the world flock back home to show off how successful they were. There  is usually a conscious effort to out do each other in the kind of car you came home with, the grade of the wrapper you had around your waist, the quality of the jewelry around your neck-gold or diamond- and of course, how much you can cough out as donation when a call for it is made.

Women who did not turn out in their best or whose best was not good enough i.e. did not meet the prevailing standard were treated as second class and there opinion in the meeting was more often than not disregarded. In fact, they can be hushed up while speaking by the more richly dressed ladies who by their dressing not necessarily their intelligence are assumed to have better suggestions to make.

This phenomenon leads women to go to every length in order to prepare well for this annual gathering.  Many women have been known to go fornicating, or even steal from their husbands or from their offices to meet up. Women from lower economic backgrounds would rather save up money all year round to attend the meeting. These funds would have found better use if deployed for the payment of their children’s school fees or for placing more nutritious food on their dinner table.

Now, when the emphasis is the dressing to the event, can anything meaningful be discussed at the event?

That is why I in all honesty prefer to refer to the annual gatherings as a jamboree. For the lady in my office, she was not only going to miss work for a whole week she was going to do so with or without permission just to satisfy the need to announce to the whole world that she wasn’t living and working in Abuja for nothing.  What meaning then does the meeting now have? Is there any moral justification of the remotest form for the kind of money spent within this period?  

My opinion stated, let me wish all women travelling home from all parts of the world for this years meeting a safe trip. Ije oma nu!

Sylva Nze Ifedigbo

nzeifedigbo@yahoo.com  08063767306

 

 

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