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Friday, 17 June 2016

REVOLT – a glance at gender discrimination

By On 22:04:00
Rising from my bamboo bed in the wake of dawn could be likened to sailing in a boat made of seaweed. 

“What could that be?” I thought. It was four in the morning and it seemed like war had broken overnight. Angry high-pitched voices jarred my eardrums as they scrambled to be heard, crying voices sounded like pockets of rain water on the roof. They all headed to the palace. I had realized our rickety door was open all along but had no idea how. I called out to Papa, who hardly woke up early after drinking heavily the previous day. He barely responded but would require the strength of a warrior to rise.

It was morning and a lot of flip-flops were headed to the palace. I had realized what it was that kept our door open. “Mama might have gone to the palace earlier,” I thought.

They littered the palace, half clad and energetically wielding fronds, wooden turning spoons, pots, pestles, mortars, and other utensils as if it were an open day of cooking.

“Our wives, what brings you to the palace looking so sad?” the Onowu asked. “Onowu, we want to see the Igwe. Tell the Igwe that Umuada would want to see him," Mgboye, the self-acclaimed leader of the women roared. “Please relate your message to me and I will pass it on to him,” the Onowu pleaded. “We will only talk when the Igwe appears before us," Mgboye responded as she gazed at the other women who gave slight solidarity nods. The Onowu then went in to inform the King about the demand of the women.

“Get my cabinet members to assemble immediately,” the King told the Onowu. After a long wait, the King finally appeared before them.

“Women of Ama, I greet you,” the king said stepping forward towards the fierce-looking women while his cabinet members stood back. There was deafening silence such that the sound of a pin falling on the ground could agitate the ear drums. “Tell me what it is that brings you all in this unhappy mood,” the king added.

The villagers, young and old had all gathered to find out what the women were up to. I saw mama at the rear as she clutched our pestle.

Mgboye then stepped forward. “Igwe, we the women of Ama greet you. We are not happy that the status of the woman has been stepped upon so much that we now feel ashamed to be the women that we are. We have been deprived of the benefits of Onye-ocha’s school. We have remained at home with all these – each person raising what she held – while the men went about playing eche and drinking away their fortune. We still go to oye to sell palm kernel, aki and ukwa, which we have picked from our farms to provide food for our families. We cultivate and weed our farms. Our husbands will come back late only to beat us for being too tired to sleep with them.

We passed our message through our Ezenwanyi but did not have our grievances attended to. We have therefore decided that henceforth, no woman will sleep with her husband and the widows will no longer sweep the market place. We will all dance naked at the market square in four market days. Umu nwanyi ibe m, ekwukwaram uche unu – My fellow women, have I spoken your mind?” Mgboye said in a very high tone. “Yes Mgbo, you have spoken well,” they  echoed as they rasied their weapons while chanting protest songs.

“Women of Ama, lighten up your hearts and go home. I shall sit with the members of my cabinet and the elders of the land. I shall send emissaries to you. I assure you that the weight thrown on you by the men will be lifted. I have spoken,” the Igwe submitted and left them.

The women sang praises to the Igwe as they returned to their various homes.

They had planned to revolt.

© Chukwuebuka Valentine Eze
17 June 2016

Papa - Father
Mama - Mother
Onowu – King’s right hand man
Umu ada – Group of women married in the same community
Mgboye – Female name
Igwe - King
Ama – Community name
Onye ocha – White man
Eche – Local african game played with seeds in holes
Aki – Kernel
Oye – Second market day in Africa
Ezenwanyi - Queen

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