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This study on Arochukwu women and societal change argues that Aro Women played a pivotal role in the infrastructural, economic, social and political transformation of Arochukwu, a society once dominated by men before the outbreak of the Nigerian Civil War.  The impact of the Nigerian Civil War in Arochukwu was severe. The town witnessed massive infrastructural decay and loss of human population mostly of the male population. This situation was also prevalent in other parts of Igboland. The study using a qualitative method, based on oral tradition, written sources and other available evidence, argues that even though Aro society is purely a patrilineal society, the impact of the Nigerian Civil War on Arochukwu brought a change in its societal and organizational structure to the degree that Aro women were repositioned from the subservient position they had occupied to a more complementary position with men. Suffice it to say that this resulted into a series of rapid transformation and a total restructuring of a society that was once bedeviled with loss of human population and infrastructural decay. Aro women did not only transform Arochukwu, they also controlled and dominated the economy – agriculture, commerce, traditional industries, health and education sectors, as well as setting the ethical and moral standard of the society. All these activities helped in the strengthening of inter group relations between the Aro and her Igbo and non-Igbo neigbours after the war. This work also explored how Aro women wielded political power in Arochukwu, the kind of structures and agencies that enabled them accomplish all they did especially under Nzuko Inyom Aro. The study examined the various resistance and protests made by women in reaction to certain policies of the local and state governments. Profiles of some Aro women who played leading roles were reviewed as a result of the relevant contributions they made in the development of Aro society. The importance of this study lies in the fact that no academic study of Aro women had been undertaken.




Background of the Study

Women’s history deals with the roles women have played in their societies and the effects which historical events have had on women. It focuses on women both as a group and as individuals, and understudies their economic, political, religious and social activities.[1] Women are important to every society; they play vital roles in the society and are often regarded as the bedrock of the society.[2] Therefore, their contributions to the society cannot be neglected or merely mentioned, but deserve adequate historical attention. Incidentally, in Africa, women have played significant roles in nation building, but this has not reflected in the number of studies on women.[3] This also applies to Arochukwu women. Sometime in the past, according to Dike and Ekejiuba, Arochukwu had a female King, NneMgbokwoUdoOmiri,[4]  who ruled Arochukwu for a long time, presumably long before the British invasion of Arochukwu in 1902. Her role as EzeAro is yet to receive any academic attention. This is one evidence of the under-representation of women in history.

This study will focus on Arochukwu women of the Cross River Igbo area of Southeastern

Nigeria. This distinct linguistic group is a part of the Igbo people who occupy the Eastern part of Nigeria, once known as Biafra. For close to a century, the literature on Arochukwu has grown rapidly, particularly her involvement in the slave trade, her use of the oracular services of the famous IbiniUkpabi (or the long juju according to European records), the Aro expedition of 1901, the establishment of Aro trading posts and settlements and so on. However, not much is written about the activities of women in this area.5

Arochukwu is situated in Abia State. It is a community of more than 30,000

inhabitants,6and covers 250 square miles.7 It is positioned on the east bank of the Cross River.8 It lies 74 kilometers through Bende and 102 kilometers through Uzuakoli, southeast of Umuahia, theAbia state capital.9 Arochukwu is bounded on the north by Ihechiowa and northeast by Ututu in Abia State, and on the east and south by the Ito of Cross River State, on the south and southwest by the Ikpanja, Iwerre and Makor of AkwaIbom State.10The soil is light and sandy and the whole area is well watered. There are outcrops of sand stones and laterite in the area, but these are of no commercial value. The southern part of the area is low-lying and swampy during the rainy season.11 The Aro people are generally referred to as the Cross River Igbo. This is because the community is located in a system of waterways and is enclosed by the Cross River and its tributaries.12 Arochukwu is made up of 19 villages namely Amannagwu, Agbagwu, Amuvi,

Amasu, Atani, Amukwa, Asaga, Amankwu, Amangwu, Amoba, Ibom, Isimkpu, Oror, Obinkita,



5 Samuel KanuNwangoro, TheAros: Culture and Tradition (Lagos: Slick Communication Ventures, 2003), 36. 6ChijiokeOkoro, “The Practice of Uzi and Sexual Health Risk in Arochukwu” Unpublished Monograph, HECOD Initiative Arochukwu (2000).1.

7 “H.F. Mathew’s Anthropological Report on the Aro Subtribe”, File: ARO DIV 3/1/55, National Archives, Enugu.


9 J. OkoroIjoma, Building on the Debris of a Great Past: Heroes of Our Recent Past Proceedings of the Second All Aro National Conference 2000(Enugu: Magnet Business Enterprises, 2001),xii 10 H.F. Mathew’s Anthropological Report on the Aro Subtribe.


12KennthOnwuka Dike and Felicia Ekejiuba, The Aro of South-eastern Nigeria, 1650-1980: A Study of SocioEconomic Formation and Transformation in Nigeria (Ibadan: University Press Ltd, 1990).







Ujari, Ugwuakuma, Utughugwu, Ugwuavo, and Ugbo. Each village chief, “EzeOgo”, is  responsible for administering the village and reports to the EzeAro of Arochukwu.13Apart from the Aro living in the homeland, Arochukwu (Aroulo), there are a large number of Aro communities in the diaspora, (Arouzo). Dike and Ekejiuba noted that there are over one hundred and fifty colonies of varying demographic and political strength which the Aro founded between 1680 and 1890, and most of these colonies exist till date.14Aro activities and penetration in other parts of Igboland and beyond would have been difficult without the establishment of these settlements.15 Among Aro communities in the diaspora are Ndi-Ikelionwu, Ajali, Ndiowu, Ndiokpalaeze, Ndiufelle and Ndiukwuenuin the present Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra State. AroNdi-Izuogu in Imo state is the largest concentration of Aro-uzo, with five autonomous communities.16 Others in Imo state are NdiNwafor, NdiOkoroji, AroUmulolo and AroIkpaautonomous community. There are also Aro communities in Owerri, Uratta, Oguta, Oru and Ohaji- Egbema Local Government Area of Imo state as well in Bende and Isiala-Ngwa North and South and as well as ObiomaNgwa Local Government Areas of Abia State.17 In

Enugu and Ebonyi States, there are pockets of Aro communities in Oji River, Awgu, Ezeagu,

Udi, Izii, Ezaa, Afikpo and Ohaozara Local Government Areas. In Rivers state, before the

Nigerian Civil War, Aro communities were scattered in Ikwere land. Since after the war, the


13 See for example KennthOnwuka Dike and Felicia Ekejiuba, The Aro of South-eastern Nigeria, 1650-1980: A Study of Socio-Economic Formation and Transformation in Nigeria (Ibadan: University Press Ltd, 1990). And also AdieleAfigbo,Ropes of Sand: Studies in Igbo History and Culture (Ibadan: University Press Ltd, 1981). 189. 14KennthOnwuka Dike and Felicia Ekejiuba, The Aro of South-eastern Nigeria, 1650-1980: A Study of SocioEconomic Formation and Transformation in Nigeria (Ibadan: University Press Ltd, 1990).

15KennthOnwuka Dike and Felicia Ekejiuba,The Aro of South-eastern Nigeria, 1650-1980: A Study of SocioEconomic Formation and Transformation in Nigeria.

16 J. OkoroIjoma, Building on the Debris of a Great Past: Heroes of Our Recent Past Proceedings of the Second All- Aro National Conference 2000(Enugu: Magnet Business Enterprises, 2001), xii. 17Ibid.




Aroare now found mainly in Obigbo in Oyibo Local Government Area of Rivers State. Again, before the Civil War, Aro communities were found in Biase and Akamkpa Local Government Areas of Cross River state and IkotEkpene Local Government Area of AkwaIbom state. These Aro communities in diaspora still look to Arochukwu as their ancestral home and they have retained the traits on which the Aro society was built, as most of the citizens refuse to change their beliefs, customs and allegiances. They owe allegiance to the EzeAro, King of Arochukwu, who remains even today, the symbol of Aro hegemony. Several of these Aro communities in diaspora are proud of their origin. They are also feared and respected by their neighbours for the very reason of their origin.[5]

According to Simon Ottenberg, the Aro did not always regard themselves as Igbo but simply Aro.[6] They spoke a distinct Igbo dialect, Igbo Aro, which differed from any other Igbo sub group. This variation of Igbo dialect is tinted with Ibibio and Efik words.[7]The Aro people run a patrilineal social system with well-defined roles for the male and female genders. The oldest man in the family is usually the head and takes decisions at the family level. Traditionally, women have no right to inheritance especially if they do not have male children.[8][9] Men until the outbreak of the Civil War were traditional breadwinners. Arochukwu had age grades for men and women groups, which played important roles in administration and development of the community during the pre – Civil War period.[10]

Being a rural environment, a great majority of the people in Arochukwu were subsistent farmers and petty traders with an average per capita income that was far less than the national minimum wage.Social amenities like pipe borne water, electricity and roads are inadequate where they exist. Indeed, one of the biggest difficulties in Arochukwu is that of access to roads. Movement within the community is therefore with great difficulty. The commencement of Abia State College of Education Technical in the mid 1990’s has brought an influx of students and, consequently, an increase in commercial transport and trading in the locality. Arochukwu is served by one Government General Hospital and about six other health centers spread across different villages. There are five secondary schools within the community, two commercial banks and a micro finance bank. The main Aro market, Aviaovuru (i.e. new market), is held every Nkwo day- fourth day of the Igbo market day and women, mostly, dominate the market. Besides being in the control of the market,[11]women regulated the activities in the market; they made sure that stealing, fighting and other forms of indiscipline did not take place in the market.[12] Majority of the Aroare Christians and worship in the more than forty Church congregations located at different points in the community. Some of the professing Christians also embrace traditional beliefs and practices. Indeed, one of the most visible things about the Aro Christians is that they retain a strong inclination to traditional beliefs and ways of doing things. This is perceived as a way of preserving and retaining the Aro culture and identity. For instance majority of the people patronise traditional medical practitioners for medical treatment.[13]


Statement of the Problem

The Nigerian Civil War which lasted from 1967 to 1970 had an enormous impact on all parts of Igboland.[14] Arochukwu witnessed loss of population, mainly the male population, destruction of infrastructure and basic amenities, among others. The town was in a deplorable condition immediately after the Nigerian Civil War.[15] The 3R policies (Reconstruction, Reconciliation and Rehabilitation) instituted before the end of the Nigerian Civil War by the military government of General Yakubu Gowon that executed the war were not fully implemented in the entire Eastern Nigeria[16]. Their impact was not felt in a number of Igbo communities, including Arochukwu.[17] This prompted Arochukwu women to embark on various self-help projects and various developmental programmes that helped their society transit from a war torn community to a stable post-war society, with activities back to normal and economic activities considerably improved within a few decades. The post- civil war initiatives of Arochukwu women have continued for more than four decades now without receiving any historical or scholarly attention. My attention was not drawn to this situation until 2010 after a lengthy discussion with Prof. Simon Ottenberg who challenged me to consider the neglect of

Arochukwu women in historical studies.[18] It was this challenge that prompted the current study.

Purpose of the Study

This work, as noted, is an attempt to study the role and contributions of Arochukwu women in societal development in Arochukwu. The two main objectives of this study are: (I) to give attention to Arochukwu women and bring them within the focus of historical scholarship; and (II) to document the transformational roles played by Arochukwu women. It has been observed that among Arochukwu women, the younger women mostly widows who lost their husbands in the Nigerian Civil War, were particularly instrumental to the changes that have occurred in Arochukwu since the end of that war in 1970. These women did not despair because of their predicament and the daunting economic hardship that came with it, rather they embarked on various survival strategies, including taking on developmental projects that contributed to the post-war rehabilitation of themselves and the community.

Theoretical Framework

One of the salient objectives of this study is to identify an appropriate theory which could help us better appreciate the dialectics and dynamics of women, both as individuals and as groups. Sequel to this understanding, the theoretical thrust for this study will be based on thechallenge and response theoretical model propounded by Arnold Toynbee.[19] Indeed, this will provide an insight and a useful framework for a proper understanding of issues that would be dealt with in the course of this study.

The challenge and response theory [20] has been put to use in various studies since then. Arnold Toynbee, in his study of history, used the concept of “Challenge and Response” to describe how various civilizations rose and fell. To him, the prevailing outmoded descriptions – environment, race, leadership, possession of land, access to natural resources – were too narrow. Instead, he considered the basic cause that explained societal success or failure.[21] By “challenge” Toynbee meant some unpredictable factor or events that posed threats and danger to the ways in which a group of people had lived and made their livelihood in the past. However, according to Toynbee, “challenge” was not all negative; it also carried the seeds of opportunities.[22] “Response” was the action taken by the same group of people to cope and to adapt with the new situations. A challenge would arise as a result of many things like civil war, population growth, exhaustion of a vital resource and climate change, among others. It was something that nobody had knowingly created. Response required vision, leadership and proactive action to overcome those threats and to create a basis for survival. Because he analyzed large civilizations, Toynbee reserved the terms “challenge and response” for major threats and actions that impacted the wellbeing of the entire population. “Challenge” threatened the very survival of the existing system. “Response” would range from actions to major change in the living conditions of individuals as well as the group. It could embody new technology, social organizations, and economic activities, or a combination of various factors. “Response” was never predictable, and its outcome would only be known over time. According to him, this was the risk humans took

resulting in either success or failure.[23]

One of the examples used by Toynbee to demonstrate this challenge and response was the emergence of agriculture and cities in the ancient Near East. The challenge, in this case, was a regional shift in rainfall patterns. North Africa, Egypt and Mesopotamia were no longer tracked by Atlantic storms which, for unknown reasons, moved further north. With less rain, the traditional lifestyle of hunters and gatherers in this region could no longer be supported. Several response strategies emerged. Some people did nothing. They held on to their old ways, and eventually perished. Others migrated and discovered more amicable climatic conditions, and remained hunters and gatherers. But a few people survived, even prospered, in the new environment by inventing the domestication of plants and animals, and irrigated agriculture. With these, the civilizations of Egypt and Sumer were born. In relating this theory to the case of Arochukwu women, the impact of the Nigerian Civil War was the challenge that placed the community in a deplorable state and the response here were the various self-help projects and transformational programmes embarked on by Aro women which were aimed at transforming the whole Aro community from a war torn community to a more stable society.[24] The relevant points made by this framework are fundamentally important to the understanding of the activities, roles and contributions of Arochukwu women. Thus, the impact of the Nigerian Civil War on Arochukwu was the challenge that confronted Arochukwu women. This challenge was a propelling force that compelled these women to embark on the various self-help projects. To these women, the only way for them to avoid a horrific existence was to band themselvestogether, put their mites, hands and brains together and generate work and business for themselves.[25] The uniqueness of this model as aptly demonstrated does not necessarily imply the conferment of any political position or value system other than honouring Arochukwu women for their strength and transformational role. Indeed, this is relevant to the activities and contributions of these women as shall be shown in this study.

Literature Review

Numerous literatures abound on Arochukwu, ranging from her involvement in the slave trade, the Aro oligarchy, the Aro expedition, the IbiniUkpabioracle or long juju, but none of these works discussed the activities of Arochukwu women or their contributions to the society. Owing to the dearth of written materials on Arochukwu women, only a number of works dealing with women in Igbolandin general are reviewed here.

Margaret M. Green,[26] Sylvia Leith-Ross,[27] Harry Gailey,40 and Judith Van Allen,[28] were the first set of writers to attempt a study of Igbo women. They were of European origin. Sylvia Leith-Ross’ and Margaret M. Green’s works were not essentially undertaken in order to study Igbo Women in their own right, rather it was in the interest of the British colonial authority that these works were done and the central theme of their work was the Aba women’s war of 1929 [29] and the role Igbo women played in that war. These writers justified the roles played by the

British colonial authority in the course of that civil unrest. However, they did not consider the transformational roles played by these women in their various communities which is the main focus of the present study.

Harry Gailey was the only writer among them to comment on Arochukwu District of Calabar Province,[30] with particular reference to Arochukwu women. He began by examining the women’s society in Arochukwu known as Iyamba.[31] According to him, Iyamba was open to every adult woman. This society had authority over unmarried girls and all ceremonies relating to women. It defined the proper conduct for women and had the power to punish violations of codes. It also planned and carried out the various dances and celebrations in which women took part.[32] He was of the opinion that despite their apparently subservient role, Arochukwu women did enjoy considerable freedom and power. For example, women had real powers in deciding issues relating to them, they traded surplus food in the market for profit with the result that several Arochukwu women became major traders. During the Aba Women’s war of 1929, Arochukwu women had several meetings but little destruction occurred in Arochukwu unlike what was found in other districts. According to him, the District Officer was allowed to talk to the women in several of their meetings. Gailey’s work is relevant to this present study in a number of ways. He was the only writer among his contemporaries to have discussed the activities of Arochukwu women in their community which is one of the focal points of the present study. He briefly discussed Arochukwu women’s organization and the role the organization played which this present study also intends to examine.  Additionally, it would be observed from Gailey’s work, that Arochukwu women were able to organise themselves more effectively than other women from other districts in the province in the days leading to the women’s war. This skill again showed forth after the civil war.

The role of Igbo women in local trade was aptly captured by various writers. For example G.T. Basden commented, “On market days, practically the whole… female population moves to the market place, either to trade or to enjoy the general entertainment such gathering afford. They are the most inveterate bargain hunters; indeed, marketing, together with the preparation of food constitute the occupation of women”.[33] Similarly, C. K. Meek notes that the most remarkable feature of Igbo life was the passion displayed by the women in petty trade.[34] M.M. Green also observed that “among the Ibo, trading was the breath of life particularly to women. The women were great petty traders”.[35]These three works discussed the economic roles of Igbo women; and are of great value to this present study which will further explore the activities of Arochukwu women in their local markets.

Victor C. Uchendu’sThe Igbo of Southeastern Nigeria provides a significant study of the Igbo people as well as the roles of women in Igbo society.[36] He was the first indigenous scholar to carry out a holistic study on the Igbo people. He briefly discussed the status of Igbo women and the roles they played in the society right until the colonial period. His work is relevant to this present study because it was the first by an indigenous scholar to consider how members of a community developed interest towards developing their community.

Kenneth Onwuka Dike’s and Felicia Ekejiuba’sAro of Southeastern Nigeria  remain one of the most comprehensive and detailed studies on the Aro people.50 They were more detailed and elaborate than Harry Gaileywith respect to the attention paid on Iyamba- Arochukwu women’s society.51 Dike and Ekejiuba opined that Iyamba was the equivalent of the men’s Ekpesociety. To Dike and Ekejiuba,Iyamba was open to women alone and most Aro women who were members of this society paid their entrance fee solely through their own effort. From this work, it becomes glaring that this women’s society is as old as Ekpesociety itself, dating probably to the 15th century.  Through it, women wielded much power and performed judicial and administrative functions just the way Ekpe society did and Iyamba also exercised some degree of control over men.

With respect to Ohafia, OnwukaNjoku posits that women commanded so much authority and played vital roles in a male dominated society.[37] “Their rights were widely recognised. If men take a decision objectionable to them or infringed on their rights, the women can cause them to reconsider the decision”.[38]He also pointed out the various political organisations in Ohafia that enabled Ohafia women to wield so much political power. Ohafia women established various mechanisms that helped them check societal ills and maintain law and order.[39]Njoku’s work is relevant to this present study in a number of ways. Ohafia and Arochukwu are situated within the Cross River Igbo area and as a result, share similar cultural characteristics. There seems to be a lot of resemblance on the roles women played in both communities and the way both communities are structured.

  1. OkoroIjoma, in the same vein, paid tribute to the Late Madam Rebecca N. Okwara, one of the pioneer pupils of Mary Slessor School in Arochukwu.[40] He outlined her contributions and roles in the development of Arochukwu particularly in the area of home economics and skill acquisition for young Arochukwu women. Her only child, Mrs. Maria Achinivu, became the president general of Arochukwu women’s wing for decades.[41]His work serves as a background for understanding the roles of Arochukwu women’s wing which will be examined in this study.

Some other works have shown that Igbo women of the riverine areas of Aboh, Onitsha and Oguta participated actively in both local and long distance trade before the nineteenth century. From Nina Mba’s account, one would clearly observe that it was not until the twentieth century that men in the riverine area, particularly Onitsha area who regarded trade as women’s work, began to take part in trade with European firms. Consequently, Igbo women dominated trade before their male counterparts ventured into it.[42]

Gloria Chuku’s study of powerful women traders in transport systems and agriculture fromNgwa, Onitsha, Aro and other communities provides a better understanding than previous studies of women and the economy in south-eastern Nigeria.[43] In her introduction, she posits that women have played more significant roles in the political economy of Igboland than was formerly recognized. Furthermore, she posits that women concentrated their economic activities on agriculture, crafts, local industrial production and trade, thus contributing to both the export and domestic economies of the British government.[44] Even though her work does not have a direct bearing to this present study, it serves as a background to understanding the various roles of women in Arochukwu.

From Gloria Chuku’s account, we also notice that it was during the pre-colonial period that Igbo women began to make remarkable contributions in trade and commerce. She notes that women dominated the local markets while men dominated the long distance trade.[45]Chuku’s narrative on three Igbo women is fundamental to this present study, particularly her focus on

Mrs. Rosemary Inyama. Her work is significant to this present study in a variety of ways: one

Mrs. Rosemary Inyama is an Arochukwu woman and the geographical scope of this study is Arochukwu. Two, Chuku also outlined the roles played by this woman and her contributions towards community development, which is also an area that this present study will pay attention to. In addition, Mrs. Rosemary Inyama participated actively in trade, both local and long distance. She traded in gold, accrued so much profit from trade, participated actively in politics and subsequently laid the foundation for the formation of Aro Women Cooperative Society.[46] These issues outlined by Chuku are areas that the present study will pay attention to.

Nwando Achebe’ Farmers, Traders, Warriors and Kings: Female Power and Authority in Northern Igboland, 1900-1960, discusses female kings in Igboland. This is a rare

phenomenon.        With        the        exception        of        the        Aro        female        king        –

NnenneMgbokwoUdoOmiriOkennachi, who ruled Arochukwu long before the British invasion, little is known about female kings in Igboland, east of the Niger. Achebe, thus, brought to public knowledge the existence of another female king in the Nsukka area.[47]

In EgodiUchendu’sWomen and Conflict, we read this about the experience of Ethiopian women: “As tragic as wars and other crisis situations are, there could be positive aspects to them. We see the development of inner strength and the acquisition of abilities to do what they previously could not do”.[48] The above statement is in line with the theoretical framework of the present study that serves as a linkage in explaining the activities of the post-civil war Arochukwu women and the various contributions they made in the development of Arochukwu. Even though Uchendu’s work centered on the Anioma women of the west Niger Igbo, it serves as a foundation in understanding the experiences of women in the course of the Nigerian Civil War. Additionally, Uchendu’s work is well detailed, in the sense that it brought to the lime light the various experiences of women at three important periods. First, the women’s activities before the Nigerian Civil War, Anioma women had pursued a wide range of economic activities; they were involved in agriculture, trade and weaving and as midwives.[49]Second, their role as combatants or militia in the course of the war, where some of these women were platoon commanders,[50] and third, the various survival strategies like the trans-border trade that these women embarked on thereafter.[51] The work detailed how  the advancement of federal troops into Anioma had a devastating effect on the people of Anioma, causing population displacement, the massacre of male population,[52] house to house indiscriminate killing,68 destruction of properties and the severe suffering of women among others. These may have accounted for the several survival strategies undertaken by Anioma women that spurred the emergence of some women leaders.[53]

Even though Uchendu’s work focused on Anioma women, her work is crucial to the present study because it provides a foundation for understanding how women in another Igbo community had lived before and after the Nigerian Civil War, what their experiences were and what they did thereafter in order to improve their living condition and the rehabilitation of their society, which are areas this present study will devote attention to.

This literature review, shows that an in-depth study of Arochukwu women have not been carried out. The present study is an attempt to add to the literature on Igbo women generally and Arochukwu women in particular. It is also a contribution to the literature on women in war situation.

Scope of the Study

The geographical area of this study is Arochukwu. It is situated within the Cross River Igbo area of Southeastern Nigeria, or simply Eastern Nigeria, but which since 1999 falls under the Southeast geopolitical zone of Nigeria. The time frame for this study is 1970 to 2010 (a period of forty years).  1970 has a social relevance to the Arochukwu people because it marked the end of the civil war which dealt a great blow on life and properties in their homeland and saw the institutionalisation of the post-war reconstruction policy of General Gowon’s administration. 2010 is also of social significance because it marked the fortieth anniversary of the end of the war. The forty year span, therefore, provides adequate time for assessing the roles of Arochukwu women after the war.

Significance of the Study

This study is significant in a number of ways. First, it is a historically timely investigation especially as the Arochukwu women are among the least represented Igbo sub group in scholarly writings since 1960. When it is also considered that the subject of discourse, the Nigerian Civil

War or the Nigeria – Biafra War, is already in the fifth decade, this effort to capture what transpired among women as a result of that conflict is significant. Indeed, it will be an important contribution to the global discourse on gender and warfare. Second, the study widens our general knowledge of the variety of roles women play in the society.

Method, Sources and Organisation of the Study

This study relies mainly on primary sources derived from oral information, focus group discussion, government gazettes, and archival materials from the National Archives, Enugu. Oral information was obtained from various persons from Arochukwu, but mostly women, through indepth interviews, focus group discussion and also data provided by the palace of EzeAro. The snowball sampling technique was used in selecting appropriate respondents for the interview in order to provide reliable and accurate information on the subject matter.70  These interviews constitute a vital source of material because few works exist on Arochukwu women. The oral information collected was subjected to validity tests in order to curtail the problems with chronology and the distortion inherent in oral testimonies.71

The research findings have been arranged in thematic and chronological order that are organised under five chapters. The first chapter is largely introductory, highlighting the geographical location for a proper appreciation of the people and area of study, the statement of the problem, and the significance of the study. The second chapter sketches, the social and

political structure and the economic organization of the Aro up to 1970. It also examines the


70 Snowball sampling is a technique used for gathering research subjects through the identification of an initial subject who then provides the names of other actors. In this method, the research participants are asked to assist the researcher in identifying other potential subjects. For example if the topic of the research is not sensitive and personal, it may be acceptable for subjects to a provide researcher with names and contact information of people who might be interested in participation.

71EgodiUchendu, Women and Conflict in the Nigerian Civil War, 13.



impact the Nigerian Civil War had on Arochukwu women. Chapter three discusses the various roles played by Post-Civil War Arochukwu women in community development. Attention is given in this chapter to women cooperative societies and other women’s development programmes. Arochukwu women’s protest against the relocation of Abia State College of Education Technical from Arochukwu to Uzuakoli is also among the highlights of chapter three. Chapter four appraisesNzukoInyom Arochukwu and the various developmental programmes women have implemented. NzukoInyomAro is an organisation comprising of all Arochukwu women within the last forty years. Chapter five, the concluding chapter, highlights the core lessons from this study and its contribution to historical literature.


[1] Gerda Lerner, “Placing Women inHistory: Definition and Challenges,” Journal of Feminist Studies, Vol.3 (1975): 5-14.

[2] Ibid.

[3] James L. Giblin, A History of the Excluded: Making Family a Refugee from State in the Twentieth Century Tanzania (Ohio: University Press, 2006), 3-12.

[4] Kenneth Onwuka Dike and Felicia Ekejiuba,TheAro of South-Eastern Nigeria, 1650- 1980: A Study of SocioEconomic Formation and Transformation in Nigeria (Ibadan: University Press Limited, 1990), Appendix 11a.

[5] Mr. T. M. Shankland, Intelligent report on  Aro, File: ARODIV 3/1/55, National Archives, Enugu.

[6] Simon Ottenberg, Farmers and Townspeople in Changing Nigeria: Abakaliki during Colonial Times 1905-1960 (Ibadan: Spectrum Books limited, 2005), 27.

[7] Ibid.

[8] ChijiokeOkoro, “The Practice of Uzi and Sexual Health Risk in Arochukwu”.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] My visit to Arochukwu prior tothe field work was very rewarding. First of all, it afforded me the opportunity to get acquainted with the environment. Visits were paid to the College of Education, General Hospital and many other important places. Moving around the community was not without difficulty because of the nature of the roads leading to some villages further in the interior. This was coupled with the fact that the visit occurred in the raining season.

[12] Interview, Mrs. Chinasa  DonaldIkechukwuKanu, 55years, Agbagwu Arochukwu, 9th September 2013.

[13] Interview, Elder Chief Isaac OkwaraOnoh, 87 years, elder of the Presbyterian Church and the village chief of Agbagwu, Agbagwu Arochukwu, 4th September 2013.



[14] Paul Obi-Ani, Post Civil war: Political and Economic Reconstruction of Igboland, 1970-1983 (Nsukka: Great AP Express Publishers Limited, 2009), 15. For further readings on the impact of Nigerian Civil War on Igboland, see Axel Harneit-Sievers, Jones O. Ahazuem and Sydney Emezue, A Social History of the Nigerian Civil War: Perspective from Below (Hamburg: Lit Verlag, 1997); Chinua Achebe, There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra (USA: Penguin group Inc, 2012); ChiamandaAdichie, Half of a Yellow Sun (Lagos: Kachifo, 2006).

[15] I owe this information to Elder Chief Isaac OkwaraOnoh – village chief of Agbagwu, whom I visited during one my visits to Arochukwu prior to my field work. He provided useful information on the impact of the Nigerian civil war in Arochukwu and names of people whom he thought I should interview on the impact of the civil war on Arochukwu. I was reliably informed that his house was used as relief center during the civil war.

[16] Paul Obi-Ani, 36.

[17] O. K .Elechi, “Ewe Refugees visited by Presbyterian Church Nigerian women’s Guild,” ArochukwuNews, Vol 5 (1994).

[18] The interest to embark on this study was primarily born out of the discussion I had with Professor Simon Ottenberg. Prof.Ottenberg is an American Anthropologist and a renowned scholar. He has worked extensively on the Afikpo and to some extent on the Abakaliki People of Northern Igboland. I was privileged to meet Prof.Ottenberg at an International conference on Islam in the Nigeria’s Eastern Region and the Lake Chad Basin, held in Tinapa, Calabar Nigeria, 26 -29 October 2010. That conference was convened by Dr. EgodiUchendu. After he had gone through my B.A. project on “The Preservation and the Sustenance of the Aro Culture and Traditions in the 20th Century”, he said “a lot has been written on the Aro people. I would prefer if you will do a study on Aro women in your subsequent studies because it is an area I am yet to see anything on and I am not quite sure if much attention have been devoted to this area of study”. This was actually my starting point.



[19] Arnold Toynbee was a British historian who lived from 14th April 1889 to 22nd October 1975. He was a research Professor of international history at the London School of Economics and the University of London. He authored several books and was also noted for his social commitment and desire to improve the living conditions of the working class. He is best known for his 12 volume on A Study of History.

[20] Toynbee’s challenge and response theory is discussed in,A Study of History Vol. XII: Reconsiderations (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1961).

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Muriel Miller Branch and Dorothy Marie Rice, Pennies to Dollars: The Story of Maggie Lena Walker (North Haven CT: Linnet Books, 1997).

[26] Margaret M. Green, Igbo Village Affairs (London: Frank Cass & Co Ltd, 1947).

[27] Sylvia Leith Ross, AfricanWomen: A Case Study of the Ibo of Nigeria (New York: AMS Press Inc, 1965). 40 Harry Gailey, The Road to Aba: A Study of the British Administrative Policy in Eastern Nigeria (New York: New York University Press, 1970), 19-20.

[28] Judith Van Allen, “Aba Riot or Igbo Women’s War: Ideology, stratification and the Indivisibility of Women,”Women in Africa, ed. N.J. Hafkin and E.G. Bay(California: Stanford University Press, 1976).

[29] Aba women’s war started in November 1929 when thousands of Igbo women from Bende District of Nigeria, the nearby Umuahia and other places in Eastern Nigeria, travelled to Oloko to protest against the warrant chiefs whom they accused of restricting the role of women in the government. This incident became known as the Igbo women war of 1929. For further reading see John N. Oriji, “Aba Women’s War in Nigeria,” Encyclopedia of Western Colonialism Since 1450, ed.T. Benjamin (Detroit: Macmillian Press, 2007).

[30] Harry Gailey, The Road to Aba: A Study of the British Administrative Policy in Eastern Nigeria, 20.

[31] Ibid.,19.

[32] Ibid., 20.

[33] G.T. Basden, Among the Ibos of Nigeria, (Ibadan: University Publishing Co, 1982), 89.

[34] C.K. Meek, Law and Authority in Nigerian Tribe (London: Oxford University Press, 1957),19.

[35] M.M. Green, Ibo Village Affairs (London: Frank Cass & Co, 1964), 39.

[36] Victor C. Uchendu, The Igbo of Southeast Nigeria (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1965), 86. 50KennthOnwuka Dike and Felicia Ekejiuba, The Aro of South-eastern Nigeria, 1650-1980: A Study of SocioEconomic Formation and Transformation in Nigeria (Ibadan: University Press Ltd, 1990)290. 51Ibid.

[37] OnwukaNjoku, OhafiaA Heroic Igbo Society (EbemOhafia: KaluOyeoku Publisher, 2000), 24.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid.,25.

[40] J. OkoroIjoma, Building on the Debris of a Great Past: Heroes of Our Recent Past Proceedings of the Second All- Aro National Conference 2000(Enugu: Magnet Business Enterprises, 2001), 76.



[41] Ibid.

[42] Nina Mba, Nigerian Women mobilized: Women’s Political Activity in Southern Nigeria, 1900-1965 (Berkeley: University of California, 1982), 30-31.

[43] Gloria Chuku, Igbo Women and Economic Transformation in Southeastern Nigerias (New York and London:

Routledge, 2005).

[44] Gloria Chuku,  Igbo Women and Economic Transformation in Southeastern Nigeria. 178.

[45] Gloria Chuku, “From Petty Traders to International Merchants: A Historical Account of the Role of Three Igbo Women of Nigeria in Trade and Commerce, 1886-1970,”African Economic History 27(1999):1-22.

[46] Ibid. 13-16.

[47] Nwando Achebe, Farmers, Traders, Warriors and Kings: Female Power and Authority in Northern Igboland, 1900-1965(Portsmouth: Heinemann, 2005).


[48] EgodiUchendu, Women and Conflict in the Nigerian Civil War, (Trenton, NJ: African World Press Inc, 2007). 3.

[49] Ibid., 36.

[50] Ibid., 114 -120.

[51] Ibid., 141.

[52] Ibid., 74 -75. 68Ibid.,92.

[53] Ibid.,81-158.


[54] S.N. Nwabara, Iboland: A Century of Contact with Britain, 1860-1960 (Great Britain: Hodder and Stoughton Education, 1977), 18.

[55] Ibid. 74Ibid.



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