Life

On Community, The August Meeting and Networking Amongst Igbo women

By Angel Nduka-Nwosu | Aug 26, 2022

There is a joke amongst young Igbos who live in the diaspora and in non-Igbo places like Lagos. It is one that I feel captures the communal spirit of Igbo people as a group. 

The joke is that older tech-savvy Igbo people have a habit of dropping young Igbos into group chats in the name of "you need to network more and find more Igbo friends".

Although I grew up in Lagos–a non-majority Igbo city–I never felt that I was any less Igbo. This is because each first Sunday of the month, we attended town hall meetings where members of our village came together to strategise and offer support to each other.

The town hall meetings of Igbo people in non-Igbo cities are one example of the physical networking done.

Another example are the August Meetings held by Igbo married women in August. 

In it, all married women return to their husband's hometowns for a month of retreats, meetings and activities lined up to talk about how to develop and move forward the state of women in the community where they married.

The August Meeting often sees women come up with what can best be described as women empowerment schemes in the areas of education and finance. For example, in one of the August Meetings my mother attended, both rural and city-dwelling women were trained on how to make spices. 

When speaking with her on one occasion, she mentioned that one of such women who were previously unemployed has used that business to contribute effectively to her home and children's education.

Sometimes during the August Meeting, asides from the empowerment schemes, the women organise discussions on issues like domestic violence, teen pregnancy as seen in the community, health education and the way forward.

However, as innovative as August Meeting is for Igbo women, it is not without its faults. 

For one, the fact that a very important retreat like this is open to only married women reinforces the idea that marriage is the height of a woman's existence. It also implicitly suggests that her husband's hometown should be her primary focus even when talking about issues concerning women.

It also worries me that issues of class and "saviorship" may play up. This especially since the financing of the meeting and the meeting itself relies heavily on women in more developed cities like Lagos and Abuja, coming home for a month to engage themselves and the rural women in empowerment schemes.

There are also instances where a woman's wealth and her husband's status in the community offers her more respect and instances where August Meeting becomes a display of who has more money to flaunt.

That said, the solution is not to ban August Meeting in itself as it does offer women a safe space however mandated to connect and network with other women.

The solution is to make the August Meeting one not only limited to married women but one that sees the participation of all older women regardless of marital status.