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. Women are important to every society; they play vital roles in the society and are often regarded as the bedrock of the society. 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. This also applies to Arochukwu women. Sometime in the past, according to Dike and Ekejiuba, Arochukwu had a female King, NneMgbokwoUdoOmiri, 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.
Arochukwu is situated in Abia State. It is a community of more than 30,000 inhabitants, and covers 250 square miles. It is positioned on the east bank of the Cross River. It lies 74 kilometers through Bende and 102 kilometers through Uzuakoli, southeast of Umuahia, the Abia state capital. 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 south-west by the Ikpanja, Iwerre and Makor of AkwaIbom State. The 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. 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. Arochukwu is made up of 19 villages namely Amannagwu, Agbagwu, Amuvi, Amasu, Atani, Amukwa, Asaga, Amankwu, Amangwu, Amoba, Ibom, Isimkpu, Oror, Obinkita,