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1.1 Background of the Study:
Igbo people are an ethnic group living chiefly in South –Eastern Nigeria. The area is located in the tropical rain forest environment of West Africa. Igbo land lies
between Longitudes 5o and 7˚ north of the equator. Tribes with varying dialects surround them. On the North, the Igbo share a common boundary with Igala, the Idoma and the Tiv, on the South the Ijaw and Ogoni, East by the Ibibio, Anang, Yako, Umon and finally on the West, by Edo, Urhobo an Isoko people (Onwuejeogu, 1981) surround them.
The origin of Igbo people cannot be easily traced because of lack of records, which will help to explain the period, place of settlement and origin. According to Ilogu (1974:11), “where the Igbo came from and when, will remain for a long time a matter of conjecture because of the absence of helpful records of archeological records by which to determine the date of settlement and place of origin”. Shaw (1977:18) maintained, “Through oral traditions recorded by ethnologists, historians and some available archeological records, little has been known about the origin of Igbo people. Through these sources, it was found that Igbo-Ukwu area had been a center of Igbo civilization, which dates as far as ninth century B.C. or even more.
Onwuejeogu (1981:8) noted on the Igbo that, “a study of their way of life reveals that they were able to adapt effectively to the dense rain forest in Nigeria”.
They are one of the most numerous ethnic groups in black Africa. Covering an area of 40,922 square kilometers (Uchendu, 1965) and their numerical strength is remarkable in the present day Nigeria. The CIA World Fact book puts the Igbo population (including the various subgroups of the Igbo) at 18% of a total population of 152 million, or approximately 27 million.(World fact book, 2010).
Southeastern Nigeria, which is inhabited primarily by the Igbo, is the most densely populated area in Nigeria, and possibly in all of Africa. They were so densely populated that Flint (1966:63) stated that the Igbo “developed a density per acre only matched in Africa by that of Nile valley”.
The Igbo in Nigeria are found in Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, Delta and Rivers State (Uchem,2001:36). The Igbo language is predominant throughout these areas, although English (the national language) is spoken as well. Prominent towns and cities in Igboland include Aba, Owerri, Enugu (considered the 'Igbo capital'), Williams (2008:196) includes Onitsha, Abakaliki, Afikpo, Agbor, Nsukka, Orlu, Okigwe, Umuahia, Asaba and Port Harcourt among others (Nwachukwu, 2004:8) There is a significant number of Igbo people found in other parts of Nigeria by migration, such as in the city of Lagos (Gordon, 2003:87). Other Nigerians and ethnographers who are not well informed about the SouthEast (Udeani, 2008, Taylor 1996) sometimes regard most ethnicities that inhabit southeastern Nigeria, such as the closely related Efik and Ibibio people.
In Igbo land like in many other cultures women are viewed and treated as inferior or second-class citizens in the traditional African societies and the Nigerian society in particular (Onah, 2008:45). Patriarchy had always ignored and put to disadvantage the position of women in the matrices of indigenous cultures” (Ugwu, 2007: 34).Women have been subjected to subjugation, discrimination and injustices over the years.
Apparently, these traditions are gradually changing with the introduction of Christianity and modernity. These changes have naturally affected the traditional roles of men and women and their status in the contemporary society. The current drive for sustainable human development carries with it a great deal of expectation for a better world. The “universalism of life claims” is to many, a remainder that all individuals should exercise their capabilities to the fullest and to put these capabilities to the best use in all fields. (Human development as citied in (Ogbuche, 2009). Nevertheless, to a good majority, the “universalism of life claims” is a new message, unheard before and which is threatened by legal, and inimical traditional practices entrenched in most African societies, which is also applicable to Igbo people.
1.2 Statement of Problem:
Women encounter many challenges where cultural practices inimical to them exist. Widowhood, Mutilation of female genital organ and other related evil practices
have caused great havoc among women. They are generally unfavourable to the health, psychological and social well-being of women whose fundamental human rights are also violated by the application of these practices. The practices are usually considered normal part of life. However, attempts to improve the status of the women have brought them to limelight as part of the problems of development designed to sustain patriarchy, gender inequality in our society. These problems are not well dealt with instead; people regard them as the right way of doing it. The above problems informed the choice of this topic. The researcher wants to proffer solutions to the above problem facing women in Igboland.
1.3 Research Methodology:
This research work will make use of historical and analytical research method, which attempts to explore available literature and sifting relevant information associated with the topic under discussion. The methods of data collection are from primary and secondary sources of information. The information from the primary source will be mainly from interviews as they relate to the issues in the study, and the interview is conducted among the women who are involved in the study area. During the interview, the researcher conducted oral interview on those who cannot read or write in their native dialect. The data from secondary source were gathered from existing texts found in the libraries, archives, periodicals, thesis and internet.
1.4 Purpose of the Study:
The main aim of this research is to look into the cultural practices that are against women’s right before and after the advent of Christianity in Igboland. Furthermore, to show the contributions of Christianity towards the amelioration of these socio-cultural practices that impede women’s right. Finally, this research work will suggest some practical solution that will help to stop these inimical socio-cultural practices against women.
1.5 Significance of the Study:
This research will provide a base for further research on a similar topic and a source of information to the public who would want to carry out more extensive research on the topic. It is hoped that it will be an addition to the numerous literature on the topic in the library. It will also be of use to posterity as it is hoped to be an important study to Igbo people especially the women in Igboland.
1.6 Scope of the Study:
The scope of this study is Southeastern Nigeria people. They are made up of five states, which include Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo state. These people made up one cultural zone. The scope is so chosen because of the interrelatedness in their culture.
Given the above, references will also be made to other Igbo speaking states in Nigeria, Nigeria as a whole, West Africa and Africa for the sake of comparison.
1.7 Definition of Terms:
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