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“Ofu onye sielu ora, ora erisie ma ora sielu ofu onye, ogaghi erisi”

by Cedric Owuru, Linking, Learning, and Amplifier Officer, Voice in Nigeria


“If a man cooks for a community, they will finish it and ask for more, but if the community cooks for just the man, he won’t be able to finish it.”


This Igbo adage reflects a situation that unfolded in the Umuode community of Nkanu East, Enugu State. It personifies an event where the women of the community marched to a man’s house one peaceful morning, insisting that he beat all of them before he could proceed with his daily activities. This scenario may seem puzzling, but it stems from a particular circumstance, which I will now explain.Umuode community Nkanu East is home to a women’s group supported by an empowerment grantee partner, Dewdrop Foundation who are implementing the Women Empowerment and Inclusive Governance Project.  The project’s objective is to empower women in the community to self-organize and lead advocacy efforts directed towards local community leaders. The aim is to create an enabling environment for economic empowerment among women in the community. Although this was the intention from the inception, there is no practical way to determine how social development innovation evolves, especially when it is people-driven.


Engagement meeting with the Voice Round Table representatives
Engagement meeting with the Voice Round Table representatives


Initially, Dew Drop Foundation planned to work with 50 women.  However, due to the high level of interest from women in the community, the project remained open and began working with a larger number of women. The women’s group went beyond demanding land rights and social services and drafted a constitution to govern how women were to be treated in the community. One of the clauses in the constitution stated that “No man is allowed to beat a woman in the community under any circumstance”. This constitution was submitted to the “Igwe” the ruler of the community, and his cabinet, and it was accepted.


It was established that if a man had any grievances with a woman, they should report the issue to the Voice Round Table (VRT), which is the name the women’s group adopted for their meeting space.  On a fateful day, during a gathering of the VRT, a report was brought forth that a woman in the community had been physically abused by her husband. Upon hearing this news, the VRT instructed the community town crier to announce that all women should convene at the community town hall early the following day. Any woman who failed to comply would face sanctions from the VRT.


Women from the Umoede community marching to a perpetrator’s house to seek justice

The next morning, all the women marched down to the perpetrator’s house, which could only be likened to ants trailing toward an anthill. When the women arrived at the home of the man, an Igbo adage which was mere words came to life; the women asked the man to beat all of them. They’d offered him a meal he could not finish.


A resolution was reached, the man apologised to the women and promised not to repeat his actions. The Igwe and the cabinet backed the women and fined the man, and a new law was created that would fine any man who committed such an offense.


Before this event, the advocacy of the VRT also resulted in the community ostracising a man who was a serial abuser. He was only to be allowed back into the community when he had sought rehabilitation. However, they felt the community didn’t understand how serious they were about issues, resulting in the women doing a protest march.


Before I leave,here’s a quick reminder for you to be careful before attracting a buffet from a community that you won’t be able to finish; don’t bite off more than you can chew.


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