(Re)Venturing into the Public Sphere: Historical Sociology of “August Meeting” among Igbo Women in Nigeria.

Type Conference Paper - 12th General Assembly Governing the African Public Sphere
Title (Re)Venturing into the Public Sphere: Historical Sociology of “August Meeting” among Igbo Women in Nigeria.
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2008
URL http://www.codesria.org/IMG/pdf/Akachi_Odoemene.pdf?1136/638389a3e47ee9f55fa84c0fbc8a72825bb71bb4
The month of August of every year witnesses an ‘in-migration’ marked by massive homecoming
from different Nigerian towns and cities of ‘Igbo women’ groups to their marital rural
hometowns, where they unite with their colleagues in the rural settings for what could best be
termed a ‘congress’. The meetings take place in all parts of Igboland and in the same month.
“August Meeting” is often geared towards community development, but has of recent been
involved in conflict management and peace-building in rural societies – all hitherto public
sphere domains exclusive to the men-folk, particularly among the Igbo. The “August
Meeting” among Igbo women has a critical mandate in the political affairs of respective Igbo
communities, and represents the socio-cultural, political and economic development initiative
of women within the public sphere. But, how truly participatory has the “August Meeting”
been? And, to what extent has it been empowering to the womenfolk? This study articulates
the idea of the public sphere within the Igbo/Nigerian context and develops a comprehensive
analysis and view of the agency of women’s participation therein, by focusing on their
grassroots initiatives and the crucial roles they play in societal development. It further reconstructs
the history of “August Meeting” among the Igbo, with a view to throwing light on
its structure, functions and modus operandi and examines the nexus between the public sphere
and the agency of women with particular reference to this August women’s meeting. Finally,
it shows the degree of this meeting’s autonomy from men’s groups, and highlights the factors
that inhibit these women in further negotiating a space in the public sphere. The study is
qualitative in nature and approached from a gendered perspective. Data were sourced from
both primary and secondary sources within a multi-disciplinary framework.

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