Nigeria – Igbo’s Ada as a tool for women empowerment

Easy solution to a big problem.

Most Nigerian women regardless of where you are from would have experienced gender-based negative comment that is completely devoid of any sense by the time they reach puberty and because right from home, most of us are reminded of how little our opinion mean to our immediate environment let alone larger society – the negative thoughts replays itself in the mind many times do lots of damage to women’s confidence.

Charity begins at home.

Among all Nigeria tribes, Igbo’s tradition of recognising the importance of female role in the community stands out. For them empowerment starts from birth. The first daughter called Ada from little learns that she could do all that she sets her mind to, a child like this is likely to grow up being confident and would not shy away from challenges. There is a whole culture of rituals involved around Ada but all is pointing towards a society where everyone’s inputs is equally valued regardless of ones gender.

In Yoruba culture, a first-born who happened to be a girl would not receive the same reception as in Igbo culture, actually the mother would be told “don’t worry, next time you’ll have a boy,’ which of course would be followed by the poor woman spending most of her days wishing for boys.

What I found interesting in my culture for example was that treatment of a girl-child differs for different situations. In a family where there is a boy-child, girls in that family are very likely to be treated the same as the boys and of course the girls are most likely to do all of the house chores. However, it becomes more demeaning when a family have no boy-child, then it means that the pressure is both on the mother and the ‘very’ lucky daughters to please their father and be subjected to endless rants on how having a boy-child could have made their life so much different. This on top of the larger societal narrow mindset on women ability can not be good for anyone.

What I found particularly interesting about Ada culture was that a first daughter who is raised to believe in herself would likely grow up empowering all the girls around her be a first daughter or otherwise. It would be more like ‘if I could do it so can you all’ kind of positive spirit. And this to me go well with Yoruba believe of B’orikan ba sunwon a r’angba – loosely means one well off head will affect two hundred others positively.

Please note that this is not taken away from the facts that in all of our numerous tribes, male child is favoured but the difference is that first female child in Igbo is empowered.

In Nigeria today, we have lots of women leaders representing us at the national level, (without pulling tribal preference into it which I am honestly not interested as this has never benefited the common people) looking at the names of the ladies in top positions says a lot. I do believe that everyone should get the top posts based on merit but can we honestly say we don’t have Yoruba women who are smart enough for these posts or our men (Yoruba) did what they call ‘Pull her down syndrome?’

An article with the First Lady meeting three 2015 women governorship aspirants in Abuja last month was an interesting one. No surprises that none of the three states were Yoruba.

Since we are still one nation, we might as well work together and share what is positive amongst us – Ada’s spirit and this time not just for first daughters but for all Nigeria women.

6 thoughts on “Nigeria – Igbo’s Ada as a tool for women empowerment

  1. Gladly there is a huge shift in how families receive a girl child now, across the board in Nigeria. Kaduna is quite cosmopolitan & has a good mix of all Nigerians, in my oppinion second only to Lagos. I see folks now realizing that the girl child tends to do a whole lot more that rewards her household than the boy child, in most cases especially after she has been ‘married off’. Times have really changed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very true even to some extent in small towns but we still have long way to go.

      Coming from all girls family, I have seen my father’s attitude changed to more positive, not without lots of fights though. Lol

      Many thanks for sharing your views


  2. Dear Fola,

    I was about to give up (!) before I read the 2nd to last para about aspiring female gubernatorial candidates. The ethnic groups of Nigeria definitely differ in the matter of male vs. female children but as in all of Africa, many underdeveloped countries and, perhaps the whole human race, the male child is often preferred to the female.

    In Nigeria, there are variations within each ethnic group – pardon, those of my generation threw away the word “tribe” a long time ago. While “Ada” is celebrated among the Igbos, there are areas in Yorubaland where parents – the men – “use what they are given by God” which could mean a girl who would be dressed in boys’ clothes to help the father on a farm. In your home state of Ọṣun, my mother-in law – now long gone – was her father’s first child and she used to regale us with stories of how her earlier male duties helped when her husband, my father-in-law, started the first Osogbo Grammar School where she worked as a night guard! My own mother – also now long gone – was her father’s first child and till her death, she was in charge of the man’s farmlands as a sort of sole executor; she would share proceeds out to her younger brothers and sisters.

    Yeah, Yoruba women are definitely far ahead of other ethnic groups in Nigeria but in all, that is not really enough.

    One thing I’ve found interesting – for lack of other words – is that in the “civilized” Western world, women earn far less than men in organized sectors of the economy. In Nigeria it is is not so. A female permanent (top of the civil service) secretary would earn same with males while females in industry and commerce generally earn the same pay scales as the male counterparts. I found it strange when I was in the work force in America that you never knew even what your friend earned!

    All in all, women remain downtrodden, esp. in the Third World because they do most of the work – uh-oh – and shoulder most of their families’ responsibilities. I do not want to get to those countries like India, developed as they may be, where women are treated like properties, where lived-in mothers-in-law do not only run the homes but may flog their daughters-in-law. Worse, wives often die through “mysterious fires”, esp. if she goes into marriages with little dowries.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on these social subjects.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for not given up, lots of ramblings on my part.

      I have seen and experienced the same in terms of women contribution to the upkeep of households and even doing more so even in my small village however, what I have not seen is women been recognised the same way our men are, the little praise does go a long way to boast confidence. Yoruba women could use more of it – this is the point of my ramblings.

      Gender inequality no doubt is a global issues, I have read many cases that are a bit extreme even worse than some that I have seen but those in any case has no other name but unacceptable. However in this case my point was that it should not be too hard to emulate ‘culture’ that is clearly working within the country.

      What’s the use of a female top executives with high salaries but really have zero inputs on the running of the office? We have plenty of those including vice governors – my hope is that these women could be seen as equal rather something to keep ‘them’ quiet. And of course we do have lots of women who are very active in their field and whose opinions mattered, we need more of them.

      As always, many thanks for you frank contribution.


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