The Role of Women in the Development of Avhianwu Land by Chief (Mrs.) Veronica Ayi Ilegar (JP) at Avhianwu Day, 6th April 2015


Key points

  1. Biblical mention of women and their role from the history of creation and the women in Israel
  2. World renowned women
  3. Nigerian women activists
  4. Formation of NCWS – pioneers of women leadership roles
  5. Their place today – ministers, governance, business, entrepreneurship
  6. Policies on women and status – Ed, (violence) law and justice, agriculture, women and poverty, economic activities, development projects etc.
  7. Women in Avianwu land – hindrances
  8. Partnering with women if they must succeed in their roles – consultative approach, thematic areas, programme areas, women and girls in Avianwu community development projects, infrastructural projects, health, micro-credit facilities, Education and training, agriculture, research etc.
  9. Conclusion
  10. Expectation of number of cultural changes, hall of fame, cultural revival, change of attitude of men towards women, inheritance – wife, property, etc., data bank of our women achievers, inclusion of women in council of chiefs as source of dissemination of information etc.



APRIL 2015

The new America Bible states from Genesis 1-2 the importance of a woman when God created the first Father on earth – Adam and from him, our mother. Eve as a help mate.

Similarly, we read from the same bible, the roles played by the women like Deborah, Esther, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Christ. They played their roles as military leaders, consolers, religious leaders, peace makers, political and social roles to assist in the development of their various communities in Israel.

The history of some international women activists and leaders cannot be left out such as Mrs. Indira Ghandi of India, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher of United Kingdom, Mrs. Hillary Clinton and others not mentioned here.

In Nigerian history, women leaders like Mrs. Fumilayo Ransom kuti of Abeokuta, Madam Tinubu of Lagos State, Queen Amina of Zaria, and Mrs. Margaret Ekpo of Calabar distinguished themselves in the various roles they played in the development of our country, Nigeria.

In recent times, women like the late Pharmacist Dora Akunyuli, Lady (Mrs.) Virginia Etieba, Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Iweala, Dr Obby Ezekwesili, Mrs. Deziani Allison Madueke etc. have displayed before the world that “sex has no brain”. According to Mrs. Adetokunbo Ademola, the first leader of the National Council of Women Societies (NCWS), Nigeria, she remarked that “What a man can do, a woman can also do it”.

This body, NCWS, Nigeria, is the most powerful Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) which linked all the regions then, with the aim of bridging the gap between women, irrespective of creed, tribe and class. It is a voice for the women and a platform for dissemination of information on women opinions and a liaison between the women and government.

The subsequent leadership ran thus

  1. Lady Mrs. Adetokunbo Ademola 1958-64
  2. Dr Mrs. Abimbola Awoniyi 1964-71
  3. Mrs. Kofo Pratt-1971-76
  4. Mrs. R.Doherty-1976-80
  5. Mrs. C.I.Nzeako-1980-84
  6. Mrs. Helen Adefarasin-1984-86
  7. Chief Mrs. Emily lmokhuede-1986-88
  8. Hajia Laila Dongoyaro-1988-90
  9. Dr Mrs. Elizabeth Nwokeafor-1990-2005


  1. Hajia Usman-2005-2009
  2. Chief Mrs. Nkechi Uba 2009 – date

In the then Bendel State, now Edo State, we had women like

  1. Chief Mrs. Christy Boyo the first women leader 1958
  2. Mrs. Deaconess Grace Osagie
  3. Chief Mrs. Agatha Ehiemua
  4. Dr Mrs.: P.E.B Uku
  5. Chief Mrs. Marcelina Aisebeogun
  6. Chief Mrs. Veronica Ayi llegar JP 2002-2008 and
  7. Mrs. Grace Omoluru presently.

In our Local Government Chapter, the first president. Chief Mrs. V.A. llegar JP followed by Mrs. Scholastica Imodemhe and presently we have Mrs. Queen Braimah.

NCWS has representatives both at the Federal, States and Local Governments levels with the various women groups in affiliation with the body. Each nation like Nigeria is in affiliate of the International Headquarters at the Hague. The wife of the former president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Mrs. Marian Babangida played a major role in the lives of the Nigerian women at both international, national and grassroots levels through her popular project tagged “Better Life for Rural Women”.

Today, women ethics in the care for their homes, family lives, dressing codes and businesses have transformed to the glory of all Nigerians. Women formed social groups and committees of women in development. Law. Medicine, Banking, Administration etc. From then, the drive for women in politics, poverty alleviation programmes, and others were embedded in the national policy on women which led to the establishment of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Youth Development.

Despite these achievements, there are problems facing the women in the full participation at national and grassroots development irrespective of age, class, ethnicity or geographical difference. Prevalent in Nigeria and other cultures, violence can be classified as emotional and psychological abuse. Most women suffer sexual harassment and assault in bride price, domestic violence, rape, widowhood rites, human trafficking, forced prostitution, female genital mutilation, child marriage, denial of quality education, wife battering, wife inheritance, murder, violence from law makers, exclusion from property inheritance, discriminatory employment etc.

Avhianwu land is not different from the other communities on the globe, hence, it is necessary to have the knowledge as stated in this piece to know the way forward to women’s roles in our land.

The problem of Africa today is that women, the key producers, are bypassed by development. Walter Rodney stated that the development at the Individual level implies increased skills and capacity, greater freedom, creativity, self-discipline, responsible and material wellbeing. At the level of the society, it Implies, cultural advancement, eliminating poverty, violence, illiteracy and hunger. The main objective aims at an improved standard of living through increased income and employment opportunities.

Going by this definition, it is evident that despite the several decades of developmental efforts in Nigeria and Africa, no significant benefit has come to the region. The reason is not far-fetched: women who meet the survival needs of the region are neglected and excluded. Gertrude Mongella, a Tanzanian diplomat, strictly points out that to create a new society that reflects the benefits of development Africa must invest in her women. Margaret Snyder, a one-time director of United Nation Development Fund (UNIFEM), collaborating the critical role of women development stated that strategies to end hunger and alleviate poverty can only be successful, if women are Included and their capacities developed.

If the role of women in development must be a reality, the poor women must be consulted and enabled to take a center stage and work with other partners – private sector NGOS and government institutions to bring about poverty and food security. They have the responsibility not only for food production but also for the processing, fuel, water, health, childcare, sanitation and the entire range of survival needs of the community. They participate in the commercial sector, and local enterprise to generate Income to meet the needs of the families. Our women are strong and resourceful, but lacking in the opportunity to take full share in the society and in development. They constitute the majority of the poor, the uneducated, the marginalized, ignorant, and diseased.

Engo – Ijegas, in his article in the African Farmers (1944) summarized the   strategic position women occupy: “if African women were to stop working for one day, there will be no food, no caring for the sick, no sewing, no trading in the markets, life would stop for a day”. Only development of women in Avhianwu land is the key to their development in various communities. The study of their roles looks at the areas below.


Women and Poverty

According to research, poverty wears the face of women. In our society, women comprise the large percentage of the very poor. They are not poor by choice but by design. These days, for every woman living in poverty, there are four hungry children. The size of the mother’s income has a direct bearing on the nutritional health of her children. Yet they lack access to developmental resources like land, credit, education/ employment opportunities and technology. In understanding and removing these constraints, there must be a major component of anti-poverty programmers.


Women and Agriculture

Women are the key to ending hunger, in Nigeria, women grow, process, transport and market all the country’s foods. Also, they raise children and manage their families. These are dual roles and responsibilities of our women In the process of developments. A review of statistics of the situation of women in Africa shows that, “rural women produce 80% of food and 90% of the work to process food; 80% transport and store the food, 60% of the work to market and provide 90% of the water, wood, and fuel.” Women virtually meet the basic survival needs of the continent yet they own only 1% of the credit given to small scale farmers and entrepreneurs. Generally, they are undernourished, illiterate and they lack voices in decisions that affect their lives.

The realities in the world of the rural women is presented here to enable us appreciate the need to act now in Avhianwu land because the future of the women is the future of Nigeria. If they invest in their future, they will secure the future for generations yet unborn.


Women and Education

Statistics reveal that two-thirds of world illiterates are women. The question Is, why such a high rate of illiteracy? Economic realities and families require young girls to drop out of school early in order to help their mothers while some are forced to leave when they are pregnant. Those that stay in school, more than not, often find their learning tracks and career paths led away from scientific and technological fields. Education is one of the critical pathways to promote social and economic development yet their access to it is very limited by too many obstacles. Strong evidences reveal that, giving support to or investing in women education is the single most important cost-effective investment to improve standards of living in developing countries. Failure to improve women’s access to education limits family income and impedes the wellbeing of their families.


Women Economic Activities

Rural women generally engage in several economically low-return activities as a means of earning a living and supplement family income. Their low Income from farming is supplemented through self-employment In spite of the obstacles they face in gaining access to assets, credit and other resources,

Also, the dual roles of being involved in both productive and reproductive work Is another obstacle faced by these women.

Economic activities must not conflict with their roles otherwise they face grave consequences of losing their families.

Therefore economic empowerment programme for women must take cognizance of this peculiar situation, in our land, lack of employment opportunities and low wages offered in the formal sector, force them to resort to informal sector for vendoring, sewing and working. |n estimation, 70% of micro businesses are run by women and earnings from them are Invested In the family wellbeing. If our daughters must play their roles in the development of Avhianwu land, they must be provided with credits which results in significant and qualitative changes in the lives of our women, Partnership with women for development at this level is necessary as it means a shift from this trend to a more farmer-friendly initiatives.




Partnering With Women for Development

This is a new approach to development, which aims at demonstrating how all partners with interest in development can work together to realize the benefits of development. These are donor agencies, government institutions, private Institutions, which must join the beneficiaries to unravel the complexities surrounding environmental and economic development. This partnership requires commitment, determination, transparency and accountability when it comes to working with women.

Success comes with patience, endurance, and flexibility in approaches and strategies because most of the barriers and bias that hinder women’s advancement are numerous and deeply rooted in culture.

However there are thematic areas and issues that require attention if development with women is to be real, successful and sustainable. Consultation with the target group is very important since they constitute the majority of the poor, underprivileged, economically and socially disadvantaged. At the various levels, they need to be consulted at the village women groups: girls in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions. The new curriculum of the secondary education has a wide range of subjects which are both, professional and skills oriented. These favour education for the lives of our women. Parents, let our girls take advantage of these, please.


Some Thematic Areas

Developmental programmes in working with women must focus on the area of capacity building including the following:

  1. Personal development/interpersonal skills.
  2. Leadership
  3. Conflict resolution
  4. Participatory adult learning-promote adults
  5. Participatory methodologies
  6. Life skill development
  7. Communication skills
  8. Project management
  9. Fund mobilization and utilization
  10. Governance


Women’s self-esteem and confidence must be built and learnt to be assertive and be able to express themselves freely and have tremendous enhanced management skills.

Programme Areas

Programmes must be designed to address women at different levels. Avhianwu sons and daughters need to build a critical mass of women trainers who will champion the cause and carry the message to the grassroots. There is need to focus on girls’ education in order to transform the next generation.

Scholarship schemes and awards of excellence must be established in order to encourage hard work and dignity of labour.

Women at the community level must be empowered through massive and aggressive leadership trainings. Urgently, we need a critical and informed mass of women leaders. If we want the roles of women development in our community, we must develop the leadership of Avhianwu women.


Development Project

The development of women is in the areas of types of project, their design and implementation. Resources must be pooled together and channeled into funding infrastructural projects that aim at providing basic services like water, light, healthcare and education. The projects should be simple for the women to be part of the repairs, maintenance and management.


Infrastructural Protects

For the Avhianwu women to play their roles very well, projects designed to help improve women’s livelihoods and invariably the communities in which they live in and work in, should provide facilities that are simple with simpler technologies. Effort should be made to increase the availability and promotion of the use of simple technologies like fuel efficient stoves, hand pumps, food mills which will drastically reduce the drudgery women face and at the same time supporting them in preserving their environments. Issues that bother on environment conservation and preservation should be addressed to preserve forest resources for future generations.



Women’s health is vital to increased production. Communities must be empowered to ensure basic education and healthcare projects that encourage good sanitary practices. Healthcare providers should organize workshops on health hazards, give sex education to our girls/women on areas of HIV/Aids, early pregnancy and abortion, and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Aids agencies, the private sector and government institutions involved in poverty reduction initiative should increase the funds allocated to the education and training of women. Success of other areas hinge on the education of women. Some researchers who studied the 46 countries found that 1% of rise of women’s literacy rate is more effective in reduction of infant mortality than a 1% rise in the number of doctors. Education transcends all areas of the development effort, increased literacy rate guarantees increased decision-making power and better opportunities for children in the next generation



Credit should be made available to women farmers. Agricultural inputs in form of improved seedlings, fertilizers and land preparation equipment should be made available to the women, in the agriculture extensive services, efforts should be geared towards providing women information and skills they need to diversify crops and increase income through production for local consumption and export. Many export opportunities are available for our local crops which women can access on crops like groundnuts, cassava and others.

National and International research activities should be supported to work in partnership with women food producers on the issues that directly affect their productivity. Cassava from root, stem and leaves provide vital nutrients to man and animals and is an export crop and staple food here in our communities.

In conclusion, the role of our women in poor land, requires empowerment and full support of men as well. There is peed to establish projects targeted on attitudinal change because the obstacles women face in their work is embedded in negative cultural beliefs and taboos. The support of men is needed to remove those taboos.

Sincerely, our women can only play their roles in the development in Avhianwu land when some of these strategies for development are out in place. Avhianwu daughters must be protected from behind the scenes to limelight. The idea “he is not with us” should be ignored to allow progress occur in our communities. Women at this point should not allow envy, hunger and lack of knowledge make them sell themselves for peanuts.

Morality should be strengthened to avoid unnecessary killing, cultism, teenage pregnancy, kidnapping, robbery, lack of respect for parents, elders, constituted authorities and political thuggery. Women should join hands with the men to project healthy living and avoid destruction of properties, especially during the period of political campaigns and seeking for power in governance at the various levels in Nigeria.

In the past, political crises affected our women so much in our land. On the death of a child, husband or brother, the women are at the receiving end and goes through psychological trauma. This, according to Professor Eddy Eragbhe, “Death is a hurtful thing only to those left behind and not those that die”.

This, to me is a serious challenge to all the youths, women and elders of our land. We need to review the culture of our land. Culture is expressed in folk music, dancing, dressing and other organized activities. Competition on yearly basis or twice in four years can take place to encourage discipline, awareness and peace among us all. We should have a data bank for achievers in our communities.

Among the few educated ones, they should after these occasion come together to update their data bank records of NGO’s, CBO’s, women achievers, leaders at their various fields of attainments. Your records, those In the National Council of Women Societies of Nigeria, Fugar branch had some records before the creation of the Etsako East and Central Local Government Councils.

These shall be encouraged by putting in place a hail of fame for Clan Heads, ikphekpis and notable men and women of our clan.

Our shrines need to be restructured as tourists’ centres with literature on them to preserve our culture. They can be remodeled pot as areas of evil spots for sacrifices but like scientific and historical cities of Israel arid elsewhere. Some of these are Uwua Echi, Okhozibo and other spots that portray our Origin and culture of Avhianwu land.

Women should be part of the developmental plans and representatives In the Council of Chiefs for the purpose of information dissemination and peaceful co-existence.


Long live Avhianwu Sons and Daughters;

Long live Avhianwu Clan;

Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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