TABOO AND WOMEN EDUCATION IN OWERRI NORTH LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA OF IMO STATE, NIGERIA
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Human behaviour is not only governed by rational decision making, sometimes often have shared values and standards of acceptable behaviour that members of the society are encouraged to follow. A culture of a society guides the behaviour and the thoughts of their members by agreed upon expectations and rules. The list of behavioural guidelines is typically referred to as social norms, while the unacceptable behaviours are tagged taboos (Fershtman, 2011).
A taboo is a prohibition against a certain act for moral or religious reasons. The word ‘taboo’ came from the Polynesian language where it means a religious restriction, or to break which would entail or attract some automatic punishment (Douglas, 2009). In simple terms, a taboo is a prohibited act.
Taboos were introduced to regulate the moral order of the society. They took their origin from the fact that people discerned that there were certain things which were morally approved or disapproved by the deity (Chukwuka, 2012). These are not contained in any written law but are preserved in the tradition. Taboos and superstitions were often regarded as integral part of traditional education. Taboos are put in place to safeguard the earth. Ekpunobi and Ezeaku (1990) opined that taboos are central to the socialization process, and thus ensure public peace, unity and stability of the society. In religious taboos, the forbidden item is believed to be unclean or sacred, and the taboo is imposed for protection against the item’s power. Violation of these prohibitions is considered moral, spiritual and social pollution of the land, requiring appropriate ritual for the purification of the offender and the community in order to appease the earth goddess (Obika, 2013).
In the traditional Igbo society, taboos were held in high esteem for the sake of preserving the land. Contravening any of them is regarded as abomination (nso ala or aru). According to Arinze (1970), abomination in the first place embraces serious personal and moral crimes according to Igbo morality. Taboos are not strange or new, it is a common thing for every town, culture or village to have one form of taboo or the other. Taboos actually vary from culture to culture, town to town and sometimes village to village. The people of Owerri North in Imo State are not any different. There abound some rules and regulations including taboos which are observed by the people of Owerri North. As well known, human behaviour is not governed by only rational decision making, every society (Owerri
North inclusive) often has shared values and standards of acceptable behaviour which members are encouraged to follow. There are certain behaviour or attitudes that people of Owerri North regard as taboos. Some of them include marrying an outcast popularly referred to as “Osu”, a woman leading or controlling a man, women owning lands or building houses (in their names), sleeping with one’s blood relation among others. Each of these behaviours are regarded as taboo as far as people of Owerri North is concerned. Such actions attract punishment either from a deity or the people of the land.
However, Ikedioha (2008) noted that some of these taboos are no longer taken serious or effective because of the influence of Western Education and Christianity on the entire system of human existence for instance, the birth of twins is now being celebrated in most part of the world including Africa (Owerri North a part) where it used to be a taboo.
Western education brought with it great enlightenment and understanding. In the views of Ocho (2005), education is the process of enlightening one’s mind and intellect to be able to reason meaningfully and achieve his goals in life. Education is the process of acquisition of traits, skills, competencies and capabilities which are necessary for meaningful living in the society. It is equally a potent tool for achieving national objectives (Federal Government of Nigeria, 2004). Education is meant to enlighten and to be empowered. It equally leads to empowerment. Though there are two types of education; formal and non-formal, each of them are meant to help recipients become better citizens by making meaningful contributions to the society. Though education is a basic right of all citizens (women inclusive), many women are not educated as some men Nwosu (2013) observed that some taboos in Igbo land seem directly against women. She maintained that there are certain taboos that are meant to frustrate a woman especially in the area of education. Offorma (2009) earlier noted that many women have been educationally disadvantaged due to certain taboos. It is against this background that the present study is set to examine taboos and their effect on women education in Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo State.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Taboo is as old as mankind. Since the time of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, God himself placed some rules (dos and don’ts) to Adam and Eve, in which violation attracted a curse to mankind. As part of the curse pronounced by God, the creator to Eve, as a result of violating the rule was that her desire shall be to her husband. Since then till date, women have suffered terrible denials, consequences based on this age-long declaration by God, the creator, most. Communities in Igboland have held on to this and had made several rules (taboos) that are inimical to women advancement and empowerment.
In Owerri North, certain taboos are observed which are binding on everyone. Most times, these taboos are seen to affect the women negatively than the men. Some expressions/words are condoned if used by men but regarded as taboo when used by women. Again, a situation whereby if a man is caught in adultery, his wife does not divorce him but if a woman is caught in same adultery, the marriage automatically ends. With the introduction of Western education, and its attendant influence in changing some age-long held norms, it seems there may be an effect of women education in observance of some taboos. Now, the problem of the study is embedded in this broad question “how does taboo affect the education of women in Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo State?
1.3 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The main purpose of the study is to examine the influence of taboos on women education in Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo State. The study is specifically designed to achieve the following objectives, to:
1. Identify some common taboos in Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo State.
2. Identify the role and importance of taboos in Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo State.
3. Identify the consequences of some common taboos.
4. Identify the effect of some taboos on women education.
5. Suggest ways of encouraging women education in Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo State.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The study is guided by the following research questions.
1. What are the common taboos observed in Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo State?
2. What roles/importance do taboos play in Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo State?
3. What measures could be adopted to enhance the education of women in Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo State?
The following hypotheses are formulated to guide the study and were tested at 5% level of significance.
1. There is no significant difference between the opinions of male and female respondents on the effect of taboos on women education.
2. There is no significant effect of taboo on women education in Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo State.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The findings from the study will be of immense benefit to stakeholders like women and women groups, religious leaders, educationist, parents and guardians, non-governmental organizations and general public.
Women and women groups will be adequately informed about some common taboos in Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo State, this awareness will help them to live carefully so as not to violate any of the prohibitions that may attract punishment or consequences to them. Religious leaders will utilize the insights and knowledge from the study to instruct and admonish their adherents on the need to avoid lifestyles that will attract the wrath of God to them.
Again, the religious leaders will equally be enlightened about those “taboos” that are contrary to the law of God and equally educate their members about them. They could equally be against such taboos that are inimical to development and advancement of the society.
Educationists will be well-informed through the study about those taboos or imposition that hinders equal education of all citizens irrespective of sex. The awareness will guide them to workout modalities with the relevant education agencies and adequate education of all citizens without any gender bias. Since taboos are meant to safeguard the norms and culture of the society, parents and guardians will be aware of such taboos and use them to instruct, train and admonish their children and wards adequately to ensure sanity in the society. Non-governmental organizations will equally utilize the awareness and knowledge from the study to assist the government to bring sanity in communications where they operate by education citizens about the dangers of violating taboos.
The general public will gain by adequate knowledge, awareness, and information about taboos. This will help them to behave orderly in order not to attract punishment by violating taboos. Also, the sanity and orderliness which will ensure in the society by avoidance of taboos will create peace among the residents.
1.7 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
The study is based on the Patriarchal Theory of Rogers (1959). The Patriarchal theory states that men have dominion in all aspects of life than women. The theory is based on the age-long declaration of God, the creator at the Garden of Eden that “the desire of the woman (Eve) shall be to her husband (Adam). Based on this pronouncement, women are seen as subordinates to men. The theory recognizes women as lower citizens and as such inferior to men. Hornby (2006) described patriachality as giving power and importance only to men. In this regard, women have so many limitations as to what they can do. The theory believes that men are superior than women and as such enjoy some level of immunity more than women to the point that the men are exonerated from some limitations or restrictions.
This theory is appropriate for the study in that some taboos place limitations on the women and how they live their life, while same taboos allow men some level of leverage more than women.
1.8 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
The study is limited to Emii Town in Owerri North Local Government of Imo State. The study will concern itself with the identification of some taboos in Emii Town, the role of the taboos, their remedies and how the taboos affect women education. Respondents in the study are both men and women in Emii Town who are 40 years and above, especially community leaders, village heads, traditional rules and women leaders, in Emii town.
1.9 OPERATIONAL DEFINITION OF TERMS
Some lead terms in the study are defined in the context of the study as follows;
Taboo: Any act, behaviour, or word considered, bad, unlawful, immoral or prohibited in Emii town which attracts a punishment.
Women: This word is taken to mean a female (daughter, wife or mother) in Emii town who is of age to bear children.
Education: The act of inculcating desired skills, traits or competencies to enable women in Emii town live useful and meaningful life.
Women Education: The extent to which a woman in Emii town has acquired traits, skills and competencies to enable her live meaningful life. It can be at the primary, secondary or tertiary level.