The month of August is a very significant one in Igbo land. This is for so many reasons. First of all, it is the month when most towns celebrate their new yam festivals. Urualla, my hometown will celebrate hers on the 15th day of August and I look forward to the pomp and pageantry that come with it. During this period, there are so many festivities that are celebrated. These range from traditional marriages to house warming parties and all other celebrations. Again, because of the high cost of things generally during the Christmas period, some families prefer to travel down east during the month of August. Parents find it also very convenient because by August, their children are already on long vacation, so coming home for all the festivities at this period is usually a delight to the entire family. Another significant part of this very unique month is the fact that most kindreds have their annual meetings then. Therefore, this is a month that brings about an assemblage of the sons and daughters of different towns from all corners of the country and beyond. Little wonder then, that most of the community projects in various towns are handled at this time because a lot of indigenes come in their numbers very prepared to donate generously towards these projects.
This piece is not really about the New Yam Festivals, Kindred meetings or community projects. Not really. It's about something larger than life itself. That, which I refer to, is WOMEN!!! Yes. I am a woman and I daresay that we are larger than life. Women are the creatures that God created and the world never remained the same again. One thing that is true is that even though plenty schools of thought have described women as evil, pointing to the likes of Eve, Jezebel and Delilah, the men folk and indeed, the world knows that women are necessary evils.
One of the most popular activities at this period is the highly controversial Women's August Meeting. It's that time of year when women come together in their numbers to rub minds together in the bid to find out problems as they concern the womenfolk, the challenges they face in their different parishes, towns, states and indeed, our country Nigeria. The motive is to seek solutions to these problems and find a way forward. Bottom line therefore, is that the focal point of August meetings is to discuss real issues concerning women, the way forward in developing society, fund raising for church and societal projects and then, creating the blueprint for achieving these targets and also implementing the decisions reached. At the end of the day, after targets have been set and met, the thumbs up will be for the women folk either by the church, town or even in the polity, bearing in mind that their August Meeting for that particular year reaped dividends for the town.
Another reason for these meetings is to make these women grow spiritually. The idea of the church in all these is to make women live lives worthy of emulation. The model who is the object of this emulation is our blessed mother, Mary mother of Christ. So, the theme for the message passed in every August meeting usually centres on women being vessels for change in their homes and society.
Over the years, a lot of controversy has trailed these meetings. There was a time when the men folk complained bitterly about the effect these meetings had in their homes. They actually dreaded the August meeting and all the frenzy that came with it. Some women made outrageous demands of their husbands. They would buy clothes, jewellery, handbags and shoes that would last them for the number of days the meeting would last. Aside from all these, they would also need the cash with which to shown off during the auction sales. Of course it always fell back on their husbands bearing the brunt of all the financial requirements of these meetings. A lot of men dread this period because of the squabbles that come with it when their wives begin to make crazy demands for money. Some demand for their cars being given a facelift. Some others just give their husbands hell until their crazy needs are met. And one begins to ask the question WHY? Why in the world would any couple have a strained relationship with their spouses all because of a meeting that is supposed to be progressive. Why would any woman be so desperate to look better than others to the point of borrowing clothes or jewellery or shoes just so as to look good? Why would women be so obsessed about attending these meetings to the point where they steal just so they be counted among the 'happening' members? I remember on this day at the Onitsha main market about five years ago, when I saw a woman stripped naked because she stole a pair of shoes and bag. She was paraded round the whole market and my heart went out to her when she pleaded for them to stop recording the video of her disgrace because of her husband. They beat her even more when she made this plea and I couldn't stop feeling sorry for not just her husband, but her children too. They certainly didn't deserve the blemish on their image. August Meeting!!!
The essence of this write-up is to appeal to women all over the different states in this country, especially in Igbo land to look beyond their noses and understand the real reasons for their calling to be custodians of the family and society at large. Women are family oriented. That is why most of these meetings are family based. Every theme chosen for these meetings has its message centred round the good of the family. The yearly themes are carefully chosen in such a way that any woman who attended the meeting and set her mind to all teachings given, will go back home a different person. That's actually the idea, for the sake of those who do not really understand the reason why towns select people who come to address the women every year. I have attended these meetings a whole lot of times and I enjoy every minute I spend listening to these great women either engage in debates on topics that teach a lot about housekeeping, home management, career women and the home, marital problems and how best to address them, etc. There is so much to learn. Unfortunately, though, a whole lot of women hardly sit still to listen or even interact with the discussants because they are too busy standing around all over the place to show off their designer shoes, bags, jewellery and sunshades.
I want to appeal to every woman reading this to attach more importance to the real reasons for these August meetings before attending them. With the biting recession in the country, kindly try and cut your coats according to the size of your clothes. Remember also that every child of yours will go back to school by next month when the next school session begins. Let prudence and common sense be your watchword. Most men barely manage to keep the home front running as well as they used to because of the present high cost of living. Can you please save your husbands the mental stress of finding a way to meet up with the usual outrageous bills you present to them for your wardrobe this August Meeting? The church remains one of the wisest institutions I know. I want to thank the Catholic Church for the law that says that women should wear ONLY china white CWO uniforms for their August Meetings. The reason for this was to prevent those that weren't privileged to buy expensive lace materials from feeling inferior whenever they saw their so called rich counterparts. It is this crop of less privileged women that become desperate in the coming year to look like others. These are the crop of women that won't mind borrowing or stealing just to look good at these meetings. Indeed, these are the crop of women who frustrate their husbands into doing everything possible to give them money for the preparation of these meetings.
Please, I want to talk to you all, my fellow women about this year's August Meeting. A lot of your men are going through different phases of hardship. A lot of them are dreading this meeting because they know your endless demands will start soon. A lot of them are still wondering how to foot the bills of your children in the next few weeks, especially those in boarding schools that MUST return to school with their tellers and other proofs of the payment of their school fees. It's time for a massive prioritization of the needs of your homes. The church depends a lot on the proceeds gotten from these our meetings, I know. Fact is, we will try our best to do the needful this year so that church and community projects will be carried out, with the help of our proceeds, but I appeal to us all to endeavour to put our families in order before going out there to put the church and the community in order. It wasn't Uche Amunike that coined the words, 'charity begins at home'. It was coined even before i was born. So, let's try and start this year's meeting by putting heads together with our spouses and drawing a scale of preference of the family's needs before adding the needs of the church and society to it.
I believe it will help a lot in returning to a happy home. Let's be the vessels of transformation needed in not just our communities and our churches, but in our homes. That's our place of primary assignment. Let's stop being angels in the CWO uniforms while being terrors in the home front. Let's be the true mothers that we are expected to be, living our lives like our Mother Mary and Mediatrix of all graces. When we do this, we shall reap from her numerous blessings and our families will be truly favoured. Thank you all. Do remain blessed!!!