…Embark on multi-million naira skills acquisition centre project, others
From Okey Sampson, Aba
August has steadily become an important month in modern day Igbo calendar.
Today, it ranks with April, the month of Easter and the Christmas month of December.
In the years of yore spanning to this day, August has remained the month that heralds the official birth of the king of crops in Igboland, the yam, which period the men folk had turned into celebration – the New Yam festival.
But in recent years, the month of August, in a bid to become gender sensitive of sorts, began to play another role in the life of the Igbo nation as it became the host month of the all-important annual gathering of Igbo women in their various communities popularly known as August Meeting.
Today, the August Meeting has a conspicuous and predominant space in the Igbo annual calendar as the vehicle to bring development to the various communities.
It was on this plank that the women of Amaokwe Item in Bende Local Government Area of Abia State under the aegis of Amaokwe Item Welfare Union (AIWU) home and abroad, Women’s Wing, recently trooped out to their community from all parts of the country to mark this year’s August Meeting.
In Amaokwe, the August Meeting, which started on August 13 and ended on August 15, has graduated into a conference.
The three-day conference was sub-divided into three – the women conference day, the ceremonial day and the Thanksgiving Day – which was used to thank God for His mercies throughout the year.
Addressing the women of AIWU (women’s wing), its National President, Prof (Mrs) Regina Ogali said the women of Amaokwe Item come home every second week in August to socialize with their kit and kin, counsel themselves and above all talk about the welfare of Amaokwe Item women, their children and husbands.
Prof. Ogali said in 2006, the women embarked on the construction of a Women’s Development Centre that would serve as skills acquisition centre as part of the women’s contribution to the development of Amaokwe Item.
The centre when completed, she said, would complement the town hall in the area built by their fathers in 1958.
She appealed to their husbands, friends and well-wishers to assist the women in the completion of the project which she said had gulped millions of naira.
“We expect you as good and caring husbands, worthy sons and daughters, reliable friends and responsible political leaders, to dip your hands into your pockets and support us generously,” she said.
Speaking with Daily Sun later on how she feels as a professor and leading her women some of whom are peasant farmers for the past 16 years, she said: “That I am a professor does not change me from being a woman and being conscious of my community, so what we are doing is community service and the women are happy and once they are happy, I am happy also.
“I just love my people; initially I thought one wouldn’t get close to one’s village, but when one can do it some other place, why won’t one do it in one’s community?”
Prof Ogali said apart from the construction of the Women Development Centre, her other major achievements in office was getting the “women to be aware of their rights because the very first thing I remember I did was when they were told to go and carry stones, you know that is what we normally do here, if there is anything, they send the women, I thought that was wrong, at least, the women are now aware of their rights”.
On how she has been carrying the women along over the years, particularly the peasant farmers, Prof Ogali said: “Initially it took me time to understand them, but at least one understands that people are on different levels. You can operate with those at your level and those lower, but we all work together and I am happy with the way they are responding to things. We carry everybody along, people are happy, there is no segregation really”.
Her dream was to see a more united Amaokwe Item women coming together for the overall development of the area and for this, she harped on the imperative of their men encouraging their wives to join in the annual cerebration.
The Chairperson of the Planning Committee, Lady Mercy Abraham Ugorji, who is from the home branch said the present economic crunch in the country could have aborted this year’s conference, giving God the glory for seeing them through.
Her words: “We thank God for His mercies that He did not allow the Home Branch which hosted this year’s event to be put to shame after Aba and Umuahia branches hosted the conference in 2014 and 2015 respectively. The Home Branch people went the extra mile to ensure that we did not fail in the task of hosting this year’s conference.”
Although dubbed Women August Meeting, the event was not all women affair as aside the men that were invited to lend support, a man, Emperor Ogbonna, a lawyer, was the chairman on the occasion.
An ostensibly elated Ogbonna said he accepted the invitation from the women to chair the occasion to help them in their developmental projects and also to promote a sense of unity among them.
“In those days, our women were not united, but they are not only united now, but are also becoming a very vocal point in the affairs of the community. We are here aligning ourselves for the betterment of the community and I think I will be here next year to support them equally,” he said.
He advised other women who were not yet members to join their colleagues for the development of the community, stressing that Amaokwe Item needs development.
He equally extended the same advice to the men, urging them to take the kind of step the women have taken and organize themselves very well for the development of community.
Traditional rulers equally came to give their royal blessings and support their daughters at the ceremony.
HRH (Eze) Clement Ofia Chukwu, the monarch of the host community, said he came as a father of the community to give support to the women who returned home for their August Meeting.
“What they are doing is worthy of emulation because one, it shows unity; two, development and third; it brings one back to her root, because we have had cases if not for the August Meeting some women had not visited where they were married to or indeed visited home,” he said.
The monarch called for the sustenance of the August Meeting as it brings development to the place, citing the building of a magnificent skills acquisition centre and other projects the women embarked upon in the community, saying that the people were solidly behind the women and would give them every support.
Highlights of this year’s event were awards given to deserving sons and daughters of the area, launch of her maiden calendar, N10 million fund raising for the completion of the Women Development Centre and march past competition which was won by the Home Branch.