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DRAMA AS A TOOL FOR ADDRESSING GENDER INEQUALITY IN NIGERIA

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ABSTRACT

Gender inequality has eaten deep, destroying human and socio-cultural harmony in Nigeria. Discussions on this issue have taken over almost every media in the system especially drama. This research is an analysis of the cultural, religious and societal practices that are discriminatory and oppressive of the female gender. The study is based on qualitative research design and the methodology is content analysis. It gathers its data from Tess Onwueme’s The Broken Calabash which introduces us to one of the lesser practiced tradition of the Igbo culture, the Idegbe practice amongst others and the library. Findings show that men are preferred to women in key positions of leadership in Nigeria because the culture prioritizes men. Women are seen as help-meet; so relegated to common decorated sex slaves. The study concludes that nature has placed the woman beside the man and has given equal potential for individual development, therefore, culture, religion and society should have a change of attitude towards them. When a woman is empowered, she willingly cares for her home and her community because it is in her nature to preserve; therefore women emancipation should be encouraged in Nigerian culture, through drama and playwriting among females and upcoming female writers.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 General Introduction

The most beautiful thing God has ever created and identifies His image with is human being. In His wisdom, He allows human beings to be man and woman for His glory and harmony at all times. The attempt to separate this unique pair always set a discord and chaos that make for subject matter in the art works of our time, especially drama which has become the most viable tool for social reformation. In this order, drama has an effect in remaking the society. “It affects the making of different choices which leads to experiencing different consequences.” (Nwangya. 50).

In dramas of recent days, gender discourses are implied in different ways. However, human history has always recorded constant tussle between man and woman in different interests of live. It is often argued that male domination has characterized the gender relations of human societies. Even at the beginning of the 20th Century, men and women were generally viewed as occupying sharply different roles in society: a woman’s place was

in the home as wife and mother; the man’s place was in the public sphere. Men had legal powers over the lives of theft wives and children, even powers to beat them, own them and disown them at will a clear fall out with nature herself.

This ancient enigma has formed a strong discursive premise in dramatic works even in Nigeria. Tess Osonye Onwueme is one of the prolific Nigerian dramatists writing today. She has thrilled Nigerians with her fascinating dramatic narratives. Her in-depth grasp of the Igbo culture makes her an admirable frontier in discussing issues bothering womanhood in both Igbo society and Nigeria generally. Onwueme is a Nigerian-born scholar in America. As a native of Delta State, she identifies as a part of the Igbo people. Many of her plays concentrate on Igbo women and their encounters with the conflict between Igbo culturalpractices and Igbo women who have received an education in Nigerian schools based on the western education model in particular. She pays attention to the modern Nigerian woman’s struggle for acceptance in a conventional Igbo home. According to her, “we live in a society where women have it very hard. Their lives are manipulated by others” (p.1 5).

She applies this statement to women, whether Western or “Third World”; such plunge place the playwright firmly within the feminist and womanist sphere of discourse.

Onwueme herself and lgbo woman educated in Nigerian schools (established by British colonizers), though she now lives and works in the United States, has shown remarkable grasp of the traditional thrust of Nigerian culture on the privileges accorded men and women. While women in the world over have it very hard, the women of Onwueme’s plays encounter unique and poignant challenges. They face choices that will irrevocably alter their love lives, their political lives, and their freedoms. As American poet Daniela Gioseffi writes “the protagonists of Tess Onwueme’s plays tend to be women who revolt against their misuse by an outdated and inhumane system” (Onwueme, 10). More often than not, Onwueme’s women triumph over the odds, though this triumph usually comes at a heavy price. Although audience reactions to Onwueme’s work vary greatly, the plays address themes and conflicts that inspire discussions in which viewers can engage from a variety of perspective.

Tess Onwueme’s play addresses the conflict between contemporary, educated Igbo women, and more traditional Igbo practices in a post colonial setting. What happens when Igbo women educated outside their communities bring their new western ideas home to roost? This conflict illustrates not just the issues of women in Nigeria, but the conflict of women, older ideas and traditions, and new systems of thought in countries the world over. However, Onwueme’s play, The Broken Calabash, concentrates on contemporary. Western-educated Igbo women who come in conflict with the conventional values and cultural practices of their indigenous home.

Nigerian women are perceived as household property that joins hand in economic activities of their families with regard to exchange in marriage, participation in agricultural activities and other areas that yield money (Azikiwe, 19). In sociological perspective, the modern day Nigerian women take part in important economic activities to the benefit of their families and entire nation. Family is a basic social group, united through bonds of kinship or marriage. It is present in all societies; ideally, the family provides its members with protection, companionship, security and socialization (Simpson, 107). Women thus, manage the home and at the same time, participate with their male counterpart in developing the economy of the nation. In rural areas, women participate fully in food production, processing and distribution which they combine with their traditional role of procreation and home management.

Standing and Shehannin, their studies on economic activities of women in Nigeria recorded “a higher labor force participation rate for urban women” (28). In rural areas, higher parity was positively associated with work force participation, which is contrary in the urban areas. The urban women in addition to child rearing and home management engage mostly in trading, craft and distribution of goods which, in most cases, come from rural areas. Few of the urban women are importers and marketers of goods from other countries. Prior to the above, this study tries to examine drama as a tool for addressing gender inequality in Nigeria making reference to The Broken Calabash by Tess Osonye Onwueme.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The level of women participation in development in Nigeria is very lamentably poor. This is borne out of the inferior status and sentimental attachment of feminine gender the Nigerian society bequeaths her women they are therefore regarded as subordinates and second class citizens who should submit themselves to the control of the men (their husbands). According to Afolabi, “it is surprising to note that the subordination of women knows no boundary or barrier; it is not dependent on social, educational or economic status of women in Nigeria...” (20).

Women  constitute about half of the country’s population  according to our various censuses, yet they are not given prime of place in its development. As citizens of Nigeria who form the bulk of the population, they are supposed to contribute much of their quota to the development of the country. Their intellect should be inculcated into the effort channeled towards the development of the wider society. Regrettably, they still suffer a lot of constraints and inhibition which militate against their personal development which consequently retard their contribution to the growth and development of Nigerian society. Gender inequality is experienced by women and manifesting in almost all aspects of human endeavour in Nigeria. At birth, a male child is preferred and pampered; the girl child is not so welcomed. As she grows, she is prepared for the societal role of home keeping to the detriment of wider participation in community development.

In the Nigerian political scene, women are almost silent both at the federal, state and 1ocal government level, where the situation is the worst. Politics is regarded as men affairs in Nigeria. Women are often excluded from participating in community decision making. According to Davis et al (2010) they do not participate in policy formulation and decision making process even in the issues that affect them directly. Many reasons explain this. Cultural rules prohibit their presence in certain gathering or active participation in some context such as certain kinds of formal meetings or rituals. Some of the women have been conditioned by socio cultural structure not to be heard in public especially in the presence of their husbands even when they have good ideas.

In the area of education, women constitute a larger percentage of illiterate groups. This could be attributed to the fact that previously in most families, parents preferred sending their sons to school instead of their daughters whom they felt would eventually get married and this get incorporated into another family. Many of the women therefore remained uneducated and unexposed when education is the main tool for impacting skills and attitude relevant to the contribution of individuals to national development everywhere (Fredrich Herbison 2000).

It is against this background that this study is therefore designed to examine the plausibility of the use of drama as a tool for addressing gender inequality in Nigeria with reference to Tess Onwueme’s “The Broken Calabash

1.3 Justification of the Study

This study has shown that, the African culture and society has been a patriarchal one in which women have been relegated to the background and has not held prominent positions in the society. Women are not elected or voted into power, rather they are nominated or appointed to such rare position to complement or fill gaps because of extra labour. Hardly you see a woman who aspire for such key position to be fully elected or voted for, even if she win the election, it is as a result of her connection with top political leaders. She is not elected or voted into power because of her ability and sense of carrying out responsibilities, rather it is done because “man know man”.

1.4 Scope of the Study

The study considers the writer and national conscience. Tess Onwueme’s The Broken Ca/abash is considered as the case study, issues that will be explored are the effects of Western education on Igbo communities and their inhabitants. How does education change, how these women view their communities and their communities’ view of them? How has a shared colonial past become the catalyst for both sweeping change and stagnation? How is female gender employed and received in these communities? In my exploration of these questions, the study seeks to ensure that its readers understand the impetus behind Onwueme’s heroines’ actions and explore female power in places of great cultural change.

1.5 Method of the Study

This research is based on content analysis under qualitative study. The primary data is teased out of a drama text The Broken Calabash which explores the uncaring attitude of the contemporary Igbo society with respect to gender inequality and the necessity for change of such attitude, undermining other issues raised in the text. Other materials from library centre for gender and woman studies and internets that are relevant to the topic under research used in the work serve as secondary sources.

1.6 Significance of the Study

This research work is significant in several ways. First, the study will help unfold the numerous challenges associated with women marginalization as well as measures devised to contend the challenges, secondly, the study will help decision and policy makers in the fight against women marginalization and serve as example to literally writers and dramatic writers who have neglected the issues of women inequality in Nigeria, therefore prompting and awakening them into the reality of advocating for the feminine gender in other to enhance gender equality in Nigeria. Thirdly, the study will help the individuals, leaders, local government, state administrators, staff and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to inculcate in them some cherished programmes that enhance or raise women development status. Fourthly, the study will also enable people to guard against any forms of women marginalization and fifth, the study will also contribute to existing material to students

and others embarking on similar research.

1.7 Organization of the Work

This work shall be arranged in five chapters where chapter one will comprise of the general introduction, statement of the problem, justification of the study, method of the study, significance of the study, organization of chapters and the definition of terms respectively. The study will therefore be accompanied by the chapter two which will deal with the review of related literature on the concept of drama, the concept of gender and gender inequality in Nigeria, gender and creativity: the contribution of female Nigerian writers and drama as a tool for addressing gender inequality in Nigeria. Subsequently, chapter three will focus primarily on a synopsis of the play text of Tess Onwueme the Broken Calabash about the playwright and script analysis. Chapter four will then focus on an analysis of the text in relation to the topic under discuss. Finally, the fifth chapter will concentrate on conclusion, summary of findings and recommendations of the study.

1.8 Definition of Terms

Drama: Drama can be defined as an act or genre that is meant or acted to pass a message to a particular set, group, and society of people.

Gender: Gender is the socially and culturally constructed roles for men and women.

Gender Equality: This is the act of giving the women equal right and privileges in the society.

Gender Inequality: This refers to the act of depriving women equal right and privilege with their male counterparts in the society.

Ideghe: This refers to the only female-male child.

Osu: This refers to an outcast in an lgbo community.

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