WOMEN TITLE-TAKING IN IGBOLAND
Title-taking in Igboland in the past was reserved for elderly, married, and wealthy women who have distinguished themselves in life but nowadays, young women who have achieved success in life and brought good names to the town or community.
Age is no longer a criterion for title-taking. The recent conferment of the Odeluwa (The one who writes for the world) on the renowned literary icon, Chimamanda Adichie is a testament that title-taking in Igboland is not for elderly people alone.There are a lot of titles women take in Igboland. Nne Mmanwu, Iyom, and Otu Odu are coveted titles for women in Igboland .
The Iyom title is a title conferred to women of proven integrity, and nobility in character and behaviour.It is similar to the Igbo Ozo title for men. Iyom is the highest title a woman can belong in societies where it is conferred. Admission into the highly coveted society of ndi Iyom requires the approval of the husband, and (sometimes) the kinsmen. The Iyom members usually wear Elephant tusk anklets known as Odu, and carry cow tail. Iyom title holders are highly recognized, honoured, and are blessed with sitting positions at prestigious ceremonies and events in society.
The induction ceremony is an elaborate display of culture interlaced with elegance. The celebration is usually graced by important people in society. It features a procession of initiates dressed elegantly in white attires, singing and chanting praise songs while the men blow a finely carved elephant tusk. Enugwu-Ukwu, Agukwu-Nri, Nawfia, Enugwu-Agidi are some of the towns that are known by the Iyom title.
The Odu title.
The Odu is the highest title a woman can take in towns and communities where it exists. The members are called Ndi Out Odu. They are known by their dressing-white attires,white slippers, and the elephant ankles known as Odu that they wear on their hands and legs.The initiation involves the members of the Odu taking the initiatees around the town and then dancing and singing at the venue of the Igbu.
Iyom and the Odu titles are a true definition of womanhood in Igboland.
Women in Igboland can be conferred with other chieftaincy titles that are different from the Iyom and the Odu. They are conferred these titles because of their illustrious service to the town. This title conferred on the lady by the traditional ruler of the kingdom. When a woman wants to take up a chieftaincy title in Igbo land, she would buy several items such as coco-yams, kola-nuts, pepper etc which she would take, and some money, to the female chiefs in the community where she would be conferred the title informing them of her desire to join them.
The leader of the chives would call a meeting and inform the chives of the womans desire to join them and they would certify if shes deemed fit. After the female aspirant has proved herself worthy of the title shes about to take, she can then be given the right to take up a female chieftaincy title in the community. She will take a chieftaincy name that suits her and what she wants the community to call her.Ritual activities are performed by the aspirant and other chiefs before she is publicly presented to the public through a formal ceremony.
During the formal presentation of the new female chief to the public, she is expected to perform a dance to the public with other chiefs of the community who would be dancing behind her to show support and solidarity.
Igbo culture recognizes women as equal entities to men, however, female title holders cannot partake in traditional activities reserved for men like breaking of kola-nuts, going to war.climbing palm trees, performing masquerades except for nee mmanwu.