The Role Of Women In The Socio- Economic Development Of Nigeria As In The Joys Of Motherhood By Buchi Emecheta

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The Role Of Women In The Socio- Economic Development Of Nigeria As In The Joys Of Motherhood By Buchi Emecheta


This thesis is concerned with feminist aesthetics carving out the motherist theory in the title The role of women in the Socio–economic development of Nigeria using Buchi Emecheta as an example. It is a common knowledge that most Nigerian culture gives more cognition for the “men” in the society than the women. This study however aims at examining and analysing Emecheta’s text The Joys of Motherhood, written by Buchi Emecheta, as it enumerates in themes , characterisations and plot construction. This study shows the travails of a women being subjected by her tradition. It also how the culture of a society gives more room for the man than the woman. Nigerian women however in their society has proved to be more than bench warming spectators, even in the midst of their male dominated professional congregations. This research is aimed at promoting further related feminist studies in Literature.

Chapter One

General Introduction

1.0 Background To The Study

Traditionally the experience of marriage and motherhood dominates the life and identity of women in Africa. Women were left behind to mind the home and children. Traditionally it is believed that the life of a woman is distinct, pure and counted to be unstained. She could be classified as peaceful, without and within as an entity. She was economically dependent, as she only fulfills her role as a wife, a mother and a builder of home. It is believed that an African woman should be involved in domestic duties like farming task and skilled craft production.

Raising your children and being the best you can be, so that you know your child will grow up to make u proud, is what the African society has pumped into the meaning of Motherhood. It is believed in a contemporary African society that Motherhood is one of the most wonderful titles a woman can experience. Mothers have historically fulfilled the primary role in raising children. The African society feels that the best thing a woman can do is to give birth to children, stay at home to breast feed them, take very good care of them and even follow the husband to the farm or take the products to the Market. She is respected for this because this proves her as strong and hardworking Woman. The efforts made by each sex are subordinate. Each sex has equal condition. The contribution made by African women in the provision of both financial and social facilities is equal.

Upon all the works a woman involves herself, the woman is still considered as not equal to man in traditional African society. In some societies in African only the male children are counted in a family during census, because they believe female children cannot stay long in the family, they will get married. Some husbands count their wives as possessions. Women in a typical African society are placed second to men. It is due to the conception held from creation story, since the first woman was said to have been created from the first mans rib, she is believed to be a subordinate to the first man. The African society feels that a woman’s problem cannot be solved without the help of a man. An African woman who is without a husband is looked down upon and has no protection from any in dignity. The assumed psychological belief that women are second to men has made women to be deprived equal political post with men in the society.

However women has rebel and created personal lives within the framework of possibilities and limitations set by structure and culture. These days women are striving hard to have a say in the society. Gone are the days when you have the women being relegated to the background. The notion of the education of women ending in the kitchen does not apply to the women of this age, as they combine Motherhood with their respective careers. They are able to do these successfully without one affecting the other. Indeed the women of this age have successfully survived and they are found at the top in the society.

The contribution of women to the progress of the society can’t be put aside. This range from the economic growth like marketing, weaving, manufactured products and also household affairs. The society however did not pay keen attention to the great contribution of women to the growth of the society and this has gone a long way to dampen their morals and make their effort fruitless. Vladimir Lenin(1997:94) asserts the importance of women in the society and says “We cannot go forward without Women”, in spite of the efforts of women to strive to the higher place in the society, they are still at great disadvantage and seen as inferior by their male counter parts. The male see them as second Fiddle and as such did not recognize their immense contribution towards the growth of the society. This notion is supported by Fela Anikulapo(1986) and he says “Definitely a woman’s place is in the kitchen. That is a fact unless you want us to take your job from you”.

Women are no more left behind in the affairs of the society. They now identify themselves with the societal affairs,they form associations which pursue their common interest. They have stood up to take important roles in the socio economic development of their societies.

1.1 The Economic Contribution Of Women In Nigeria

Across the different Africa regions Women have stood up to agitate on the importance of the roles of women in the society. Such women include the likes of Madam Tinubu of Egbaland in the western part of Nigeria. She was a notable trader, who also had political power. She use to safe guard her Economic Empire against the invasion of the British, Brazillian and Saro traders. Due to her success as a business woman and a politician, she was given the title of Iyalode of Egbaland.

As Marketers of the farm product,the contribution of women to the economic well being of Nigeria is enormous and much greater than they are acknowledge for. Some women do help their Husband on the distant Farm to plant Cassava, while their husband plants Yams. The women are largely responsible for the harvesting of Farm product and they carry it to the Market to sell. Nigerian women are economic assets to their family and Society.

The role of women in Nigerians economic sector cannot be over emphasized, as they engaged in weaving, Pot making, and dyeing to assist themselves financially. The role of Women in the family units made them indispensable entities in the struggle to survive against the harsh realities of time and tended to endow women with significant influence in their society.

Nigerian women are sensitive, compassionate understanding empathetic. They are givers and nurturers of life.

1.2 The Social Contribution Of Women In Nigeria

Findings have shown that women are understanding, givers and nurturers of life. Their roles in child bearing and raising children are indispensable in any given society. It is through her that the child learns the first rule in the social life: Good manners and acceptable behaviours, until the child is weaned. A Mother does not only take care of the education of the children, but also instruct her Family member on how to have good manners and etiquettes which are habit and acceptable social behaviour.

Despite woman’s contribution in both financial and Educational sectors, they are not treated as equals to the men in some African societies. Women in most African communities are placed second to men, since creation they are believed to be subordinate to men. Although these women are economically independent, they are submissive in nature.

Women in Africa have joined women in other nations in their quest for rights, opportunity, relevance and recognition. Various women in the world stood against all area of life endeavour. Happily today we have an Avalanche of female writers in Africa. The list include Stella Oyedepo, Zaynab Alkali, Ifeoma Okoye, Mable Segun, Adaorah Lily-Vlasi, Remi Adedeji, Folashayo Ogunrinde, Flora Nwapa, Helen Ovbiagele etc.

The emergence of women writers on the literary scene in Nigeria marks the beginning of female centered novels. Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo trilogy The last of the Strong ones, House of symbols and Children of the Eagle have succeeded in gaining wide readership. Ezeigbo is a feminist writer that believes that when a woman writes, she writes based on her personal experiences which tend to be more of things experienced by the gender in terms of injustice done to them.

Female writers like Maya Angelou, Magret Atwood, Susan Brown Miller, Simon de Beauvior, Mariam Ba, Judith Butler, Buchi Emecheta and so many more, have risen to fight for their belief in the Social, Political and Economic equality of the sexes. This they called FEMINISM.

Feminism can be defined as the movement aimed at establishing and defending equal Political Opportunities for women. Much has been written by critics concerning the definition of Feminism as a concept but perhaps no view has identified its outstanding Tenets more aptly than that which links it to the social disabilities under which women lived for most of the time Human History. To this extent therefore, Oliver Banks has defined feminism as a Historical phenomenom, which started from:

A sense of dissatisfaction with the conditions of women’s live and Opportunities coupled with the beliefs that women’s disabilities rise not from nature itself, nor indeed from any ills which afflict mankind but from the way in which woman’s desire and abilities have been made subordinate to their needs, desire and interest of men.

This explains why the concept of Feminism incorporates the belief and faith that a solution could be found to the problem their proving for not only an ideology but also a programme of action.

Emecheta’s central idea in The Joys of Motherhood is feminism. She fights against exploitation and pursue the cause of women in her text.

1.3 Statement Of The Research Problem

The African society believes that, no matter how well a woman works, she can’t be considered as being equal to a man, because a man is stronger physically than a woman.

With no doubt men are stronger physically and is the head of the family, but does this fact create room for the oppression of female gender? Does this mean that women should only be called upon, when her husband is hungry or when the time for child bearing comes? Does this also give room for women to be trampled upon by men? Most importantly should this deprive women the opportunity of contributing to the development of Nigeria?

African tradition has stereotyped the woman. Marriage and Motherhood are used by the society as the measuring instrument to gauge a woman’s social development and success. The laws, rules and regulation of culture in Nigeria allot the authority, respect and power of a community to a man.

This research work has being embarked on, in order to state the relevance of women in the society and Nigeria at large and also help in the rise of women in seats of power without being looked down on or given a hostile treatment.

1.4 Purpose Of Research

The research entails the role played by women in the text The Joys of Motherhood written by Buchi Emecheta. The purpose however is to critically analyze the texts i.e. examine the feminist issues, in the texts that aligns with the contribution of women to Nigeria and to know how Buchi Emecheta use the Female character in the novel to portray how women confront the challenges mated on them by the male, in the male domineering society.

Another purpose is to appraise the Nigerian women for their contribution towards the socio-economic growth of Nigeria.

1.5 Justification

It has been identified that Feminism is a word that evokes strong reactions from different people. Politically and Culturally Feminism is seen as an important ideology which is alien to African society.

Some works have be done in the past in relation to Feminism and they have been done well for example The Feminist Perspective in Flora Nwapa’s Efuru Oyebiyi Oyebanji Isreal,(2008).Feminism in African Literature, A Case Study of Mariam Baa’s, So Long a Letter and Zaynab Alkali’s The Stillborn and so many Feminist related work.

However this research work aims at tracing women’s participation in seeking solution to the Political, Social and Economic problems in Nigeria.

African women, most especially Nigerian women will benefit immensely from this research work. This research work will wield a new spirit of liberation from sexual, social and political constraint that has inhabited women. It will also help blaze a new trial of female consciousness in Nigeria women who has been brain washed that women are irrelevant in the society.

1.6 Scope Of The Work

This research work titled “The Role of women in the socio-economic development in Nigeria is The Joys of Motherhood”, will only be limited to the way through which Buchi Emecheta, in her novel portrays the extent to which woman can go as to function and influence their community positively in spite of all odds.

This research won’t cover the stylistic analysis of The Joys of Motherhood in order to avoid over clumsiness.

1.7 Methodology

The method adopted in achieving these aims and objectives is by appraising the primary text to be used in this study. Since Feminism Is a Political and socio-Economic concept, a sociological reading of the primary text will be done, to establish their effect on the women, in the Nigerian society. It is believed that the sociological approach will best explain the socio-economic contribution of women to the Society.

The Secondary source will consist of library research in which textbook article and journals will be considered.

1.8 Data Description

The Joys of Motherhood is an eighteen chaptered novel, with Two hundred and Twenty Four pages. It was first published by Allison and Busby (1979).This Fictional work is Buchi Emecheta Fourth novel to be published. The Fictional work is a story set during the period of early colonization period of Nigeria.

This novel treats the socio-cultural and economic problems of the Nigerian women in an urban setting. It pictures the difficult situation and obstacle that a woman goes through, when she is not able to bear Children in marriage.

A substantial portion of this work is devoted to Nnu Ego’s conception of the Joys and responsibilities of Motherhood. Nnu Ego whose life had long been predicted and pre-destined for her as a result of the consequences of a harsh tradition. Nnu Egos life is one filled with travails as she, all through her life suffered for what she knew nothing about. She experienced shame and segregation due to her inability to bear children for her husband. Her cause of destiny is however changed as she is manipulated to travel from her hometown (Ibuza) to a more modernized city Lagos.

Nnu Ego finally settles in Lagos, she faces many challenges in her matrimonial home such as excruciating poverty ,death of her so-much loved first child(son),addition of more wives by her husband, the forcing of her husband into army, malnutrition in her and her children and finally she dies a lonely and forsaken Mother. All this is however in contrast of her reason for going to Lagos. She hoped that she will marry and settle there and her Chi may have mercy on her and give her prosperous children, who will take care of her. She does not like the role allotted to the women, in the scheme of things. Traditionally the women bears the burden of bringing up her children against the background of standard set by men by male children. This text expose women’s trivails. It also talks about the complex twist and dilemmas, women find themselves in.

1.9 Biography Of Buchi Emecheta

Buchi Emecheta was born on August 14, 1944,in Lagos State Nigeria. She was born to jeremy Nwabuchike and Alice Okwelekwo, Emecheta. Her Father a Railway worker died when she was young, she attended Methodist Girls High School, Yaba Lagos .At the age of 16 ,she got married and had a child.

At 19 Emecheta followed her husband to London, where he was a student. Her writing career which she started, got her husband Sylvester Onwordi upset, that he burnt her first novel. She however chooses her career, over her husband, thereby divorcing him after six years of Marriage. She was appointed a senior research fellow in department of English and Literature studies, in University of Calabar Nigeria. In 1980 on her arrival to Nigeria; she was given an award of the best black writer in Britain in 1978.

She has written many novels Plays and Children books, they include .The Bride Price (1976), which was her first published Novel. She also wrote The Ditch (1972), Second Class Citizen (1974),The Slave Girl (1977),The Joys of Motherhood (1979) and so on. All her novel depict that Emecheta is a Nigerian Feminist Writer, that portrays the virtue of women.

Her work also reflects the Three Major places, She has lived in her life i.e Lagos, England (London) and Ibuza. Ibuza is a little Igbo town where strict Igbo customs abound with keen regard to the place and position of the women in the home and in the society at large. It is a community where women in the midst of men, keep their mouth shut.

Her themes of child Slavery, Motherhood, Female independence and Freedom through Education has won her considerable critical acclaim and honourary awards, including an order of the British Empire in 2005.

Chapter Four


Women constitute more than half of the world’s population and have contributed significantly to the well being of the human race. In Nigeria women have played roles as Mothers, Home makers, producer, social and political activists and community leaders.

This research work has been able to examine how feminist ideology in African literature has ascertained the need to give women room to display their given talents and they have done this through writing. This work studies the movement of women for emancipation in the male dominated society.

This research work has unveiled how women writing have corrected the disparaged image of women in a male domineering society.

The work of Buchi Emecheta provide the required dimension, to the intellectual understanding of the feminist ideology in Africa. Emecheta’s focus is on the emancipation and freedom of women from the shackles of men in the society. The desire to see the women as having the same right as male counterparts and also possessing a strong will to survive and proffer solution to problems affecting their societies is also part of the focus of Emecheta.

Emecheta in her own capacity has tried to create a socially and independent heroine in her novels. In a bid to support motherhood she approached the matter in a less aggressive stand, according to the portrayed event in The Joys of Motherhood. She has been able to traced women constraints to that of her cultural belief. It can therefore be said that feminism is not only among the educated women but also among the rural and unlettered women.

There is no doubt that Nigerian women and women all over the world are aware of their disadvantaged and want a change for the better and female writers are in no small measure assisting to boost the image of women both politically, socially and economically. Nigerian women have shown great interest in the struggle for justice to correct the social ills that pervade our society today.

Conclusively, this research work will enhance the participation of women in the struggle for change and uplift their virtue of good will, so as to avoid being pushed to the lowest ebb in the society. It will also help in uplifting the status of women in Africa for a better change.

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