Every historical event has an origin in time. Some events are traced to antiquity and some to pre-historical times. When evolutionists are confronted by issues that appear timeless, they try to escape through the horns of dilemma using hundreds of millions of years back, e.g. their irrational claim that man evolved from unicellular organism like Amoeba till the transformation reached ape, then to man. This equivocation does not apply to the emergence of Women’s Home and Abroad (August) Meeting.
Special attention started to be drawn to this great event when Nollywood featured it in one of their films in 1990s which portrayed it in bad light. This attracted people’s interest and questions were raised as to the aims, agenda, advantages and disadvantages of such August Women Congress. Many writers and researchers went into the field to explore the rationale behind such gatherings, how it started, the aims and objectives, and suggestions were made on the way forward. Most of the things written were based on speculations as some of the questionnaires were answered by those who had little or no knowledge of the issue. Example, one who identified himself as Mikky Ijege in 2009 wrote about ‘Catholic Church and August Meeting’ and when he was confronted on the points he made, retorted: “Mind you, I am not an Igbo man but I am a Catholic. I have never in my life heard of August Meeting except from the Nigerian home movies. Please correct me if I am wrong, is there any tribe apart from the Ibos that practice August Meeting?” Some Igbos are as ignorant as this non-Igbo and that is why I decided to investigate the matter so as to correct the mistakes and set the historical records straight. Before then, let us see, what some others said.
What some people are saying about August Meeting
Dr. Chinwe Okereke (2011) saw the women’s August meeting in the Eastern part of Nigeria as a tool for peace-building and development in Nigeria. Quoting Odoemene (2008), Okereke said that August meeting is a powerful socio-political strategy for the exercise of power and maintenance of identity among the Igbo women. She saw August meeting as an offshoot of “Umuada” meetings. This assertion has no fundamentum in ( basis). In the same research work, she went on to say that Christian Outreach (1998) saw the emergence of women August Meeting as a fall out of globalization and civilization; that women borrowed a leaf from advanced countries of the world to apply some concepts that would foster development in modern day Igbo societies. This, again, is far from the truth.
Odoemene (2008) was cited by Okereke (2011) as claiming that women August meeting originated from “Otu Lutaradi.” She opined that this group comprises all women married into the lineage, village and or community from different areas sometimes ethno-cultural groups. The group was especially famous in the discipline of their fellow women. They tried women for stealing, settled quarrels between women and in-laws even to the extent of getting back a widow’s property from in-laws. The “Otu Lutaradi”, she continued to say, is transformed to the ‘August Meeting’ which came as a result of mass urbanization. This is a big fallacy and highly misleading. However, it is an honest effort made to find the origin of the Woman August Meeting.
Odoemene (2008) titled his research work on August Meeting; ‘The Evolution of August Meeting among the Igbo Women of South Eastern Nigeria’; saying that the month of August every year witnesses a massive home coming from different towns and cities across the world of ‘Igbo women’ groups to their matrimonial rural home towns, where they unite with their rural-based colleagues for what is now popularly known as the “August Meeting”. These “mothers’ congresses”, as they truly are, were originally often geared towards self-help rural development, but have in recent times delved into conflict management, peace-building and human development in rural societies.
Ifedigbo (2008) titled his write-up: August Meeting Jamboree ’08. Ifedigbo did not know the origin of the meeting, because, according to him, “It’s been the practice since God knows when for Igbo speaking women 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.
How and when it actually started
Women August Meeting held today in all Igbo speaking states especially South Eastern States of Nigeria originated at Isiala Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State. From two separate interviews granted the writer by two old women (great grand-mothers) Ezinne Eunice Iwundu and Ezinne Juliana Emeagi, the cloudy air has been cleared. These women are in their eighties and mentally alert. In response to the questions asked, they corroborated each other and their views are as reported below:
The Catholic Church came to this area (their locality) from Agbaghara Nsu in the 1920s. Agbaghara Nsu was a single parish administering the entire present day Obowo, Ihitte/Uboma, Ehime Mbano, Isiala Mbano, and Onuimo Local Government Areas of Imo State. The women recalled that a general meeting of the parish (present day Parish Pastoral Council) was held once a year at the centre(Agbaghara) and men and women representatives of each of the stations attended it.
Locally, the church men and women attended house-to-house meetings on weekly basis separately and were entertained by family hosts. As time went on, the men decided that the house-to-house meetings should stop and be shifted to the mission or church and be held six monthly namely June and December. Men had theirs and women theirs on separate days. The mission in question was St. Benedict’s Catholic Mission Amaraku. Shortly, the Anglicans of St. Peter’s Church Amaraku copied from the Catholics and started having their house-to-house meetings shifted to the church also. As time went on, those who lived outside the town started complaining of the pressure of frequent returns from their bases including coming back for Christmas/New Year celebrations as well as Easter to fulfill their Easter Duties.
To be contd.
Rev. Fr. Dr. Oliver N. C. Amaechi wrote from Okigwe Diocese