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The Concept of Awowaan Itiaba in Ibibio Society: A Discourse on Gender Studies in Nigeria

Eno Blankson Ikpe


Gender studies in Nigeria have been dominated by Western imagery, which portray mostly negative images of the African woman. In such imagery, the African womans existence is presented as characterized by oppression, violence, disempowerment and poverty. Yet the history of African people in general and Nigerian people in particular is replete with examples of women who as individuals and groups were agents in the socio-economic and political development of their societies. Although the image of dependency and oppression of African women has generally been painted, an objective excurse into African history reveals a more differentiated situation in which some women had economic independence and were active participants in almost all spheres of life. Indeed, in many African cultures, there is strong encouragement of womens enterprise and an abhorrence of indolence among women. Hence while women were generally not regarded as equal to men in worth, some women were able to excel in their fields of endeavors and were respected by the society as a whole. In this paper, another conceptualization of African womanhood as conceived by the Ibibio people is examined. Awowaan Itiaba is an expression which describes an empowered, achieving and self-actualized woman, a woman of substance as understood by the Ibibio, an ethnic group about five million people in South Eastern Nigeria.

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JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editors: Nkiru Nzegwu; Book Editor: Mary Dillard.

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