By Rev. Fr.John Damian Adizie, OCD

AS this year’s August meeting comes to an end, Igbo women are gradually returning back to their base. August Meeting is an association of married women in Igbo land of Nigeria. It is an umbrella that brings together all the women both home and abroad, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, and even old and young. It is a meeting that encourages women and community development. During this meeting women learn from their fellow women and other resource personnel how to manage their homes and how to live responsibly as mothers and married women.

This meeting usually takes place in various communities across Igboland within the month of August, hence “August Meeting.” One significant thing about this meeting is the fact that it brings all the Igbo Women together, those at home and those who reside abroad. Igbo Women, no matter where they reside, usually find their way back home during the August meetings. Most women have used this medium to distinguish themselves as agents of peace-building and community development.

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Some of the sustainable development goals that have to do with women, especially in the areas of gender equality, can be actualized directly or indirectly through August Meeting. Goal 5, for instance, declares; “Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large.” This and similar goals cannot be actualized without women, especially those at the rural areas. August meetings are usually organized in rural areas.

Most of the women in urban cities usually travel to meet with rural women for a period of one week intensive meetings, workshops and even community liberation programmes. It is a meeting that carries everyone along, a meeting where all the women are allowed to express themselves in a language that everyone understands.

The meeting encourages women to visit their homes, at least, once in a year. It promotes mutual collaboration between urban and rural women. One interesting thing about the meetings is that women usually use this medium to showcase their talents and leadership skill. From my observation, August meeting seems to be the most organized group in Igbo land. Most of the groups that I have visited have their own success stories. It is an independent organization.

They are neither dependent on the Church nor the government. They carry out different forms of developmental initiatives. They discipline their fellow women and support the less privileged ones amongst them. With their mini resources some of these women have actually contributed to community/rural development. Some of them have sank boreholes in their villages, some are building halls, market stores, business centers, skill acquisitions with widow empowerment programme.

If these women could achieve these with their meagre resources, imagine what will happen if they are given support both by the government and non-governmental organizations. Through August Meetings Igbo Women have succeeded in addressing the issue of gender equality. Women now have a platform where they express themselves without any hindrance.

Most of these women are even more organized and responsible than their male counterparts. They have used this medium to prove to the world that if given the opportunity they could govern not only their fellow women but also the society at large.

I use this medium to encourage other women all over the world to emulate the Igbo Women. Instead of fighting men in the name of women liberation and women emancipation, they should try to organize and empower themselves. If possible, they should have a platform, like August Meeting, where women in the urban cities and rural areas could meet often to assist themselves and contribute to community development. A point of correction! Most of the so-called women political leaders are not in any way representing the interest of women, especially those in the rural areas. Some of them are into politics only for their own selfish interests. Unfortunately, most of the incentives that are meant for women are handed on through them. Such incentives hardly get to women at the grassroots. At most they will share them with few women who are close to them, especially their party members.

Instead of using these self centered women political leaders to reach women, August meetings could be used as a possible and reliable channel. One interesting thing about August meeting is that the women know and understand themselves more than any other group.

They know those who really need help. They also ensure that everyone gets a share of whatever that is presented to them. Finally, if the government and UN must achieve gender equality as ascribed in the SDG they must recognize August Meeting and other similar organizations that incorporate urban and rural women.

Rev. Fr. John Damian is the Director of Orphanage of the Holy Spirit & Int’l Youth Empowerment & Rehabilitation Centre (IYERC)

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