Gender Roles Before and after Colonialism in Nigeria

"No matter how prosperous a man was, if he would be unable to rule his women... he was not really a man"(Achebe, 53).

In this quote from the novel, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, it seems that women are seen as useless in the Ibo culture. After all, the men are seen to be stronger, smarter, and wiser than the women in their culture. However, the women before colonialism were still in charge of many tasks that would take a strong tole on them both physically and mentally.

Before Colonialism


  • Jewelry made of beads, coils, etc.
  • Coiffure: a person's hairstyle.
  • Jigida: a set of beads strung along a wire or cord, worn at the waist.

Roles/Things They Did

  • Feed their husband and kids
  • Endured their husbands beatings
  • Tend to their harvests
  • Collect firewood
  • Tell folk stories, sing

Viewed in Society

  • Weak
  • Submissive
  • Have little to no say in actual life (according to the men)
  • Foolish
June Sanchez

on page 8 Of the novel, Things Fall Apart, it says " he was a wealthy farmer and had two barns full of yams and he had just married his third wife " so for men the more yams , land and wive s you had the greater you were because also says " and so although Okonkwo was still young he was already one of the greatest men of his time".

on page 10 it says " he was a man of action and a man of war unlike his father he could stand the look of blood in umuofias latest war he was the first to bring home a that was the 5th headnd he was not an old man yet" Killing their enemies makes them stronger and and feared and having their heads is like a trophy.(Things Fall Apart, Achebe)

After Colonialism

As the two sources, "Women in Colonial Nigeria", and "Women & Religion in Africa" explains, in Nigeria the colonial state passed legislation restricting women, indirectly preventing them from performing their duties towards their families. The changes inspired many Nigerian women to hold a series of protests throughout the colonial period. Colonialism disrupted the traditional system of production in indigenous Nigerian societies, reinforcing the existing systems of social inequality and introducing oppressive forms of social stratification throughout the state.

Firstly, women were affected by the alienation of land experienced by most Africans. However, women appear to have been more personally affected by this land alienation. This is because, ‘As women lost access and control of land they became more economically dependent on men. This led to an intensification of domestic patriarchy, reinforced by colonial social institutions.’ Among the Kikuyu of Kenya women were the major food producers and thus not only had ready access to land but also authority over how land was to be cultivated.

Speaking about African women in general, Seenarine, in quoting Sacks explains that, ‘the value of women’s productive labor, in producing and processing food …established and maintained their rights in domestic and other spheres – economic, cultural, religious, social, political, etc.’

The advent of the British colonialism and the settler economy negatively impacted Kikuyu women because the loss of land meant a loss of access to and authority over land. Kikuyu women found that they no longer had the variety of soils needed to grow indigenous foodstuffs. Traditionally, certain pieces of land were associated with the growth of certain crops. Thus the variety of soils was required to ensure food security . Moreover, land loss meant women were restricted to smaller tracts of land for cultivation. Continuous cultivation of these areas of land led to soil exhaustion and nutrient depletion which ultimately adversely affected crop yields. Land alienation reduced the economic independence enjoyed by women by compromising their economic productivity. As colonialism continue to entrench itself in African soil, the perceived importance of women’s agricultural contribution to the household was reduced as their vital role in food production was overshadowed by the more lucrative male-controlled cash crop cultivation.

Secondly, colonialism negatively impacted women by introducing wage labour. Women were directly affected because they were required, by law in some cases, to provide wage labour for the European plantation economies.

Other Presentations Information


Lessley Lopez, June Sanchez, Esmeralda Ortega, and Rodrigo Orellana.

Citation Page

Achebe, Chinua.Things Fall Apart. First Anchor Books Edition, 1959.

Omadjohwoefe. Obese Samuel. "Pre-ColonialGender Roles Differtiation and Social Mobility of Women in Nigeria".

"Women in Colonial Nigeria." Women in Colonial Nigeria. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.

"Women & Religion in Africa." Women & Religion in Africa » Gender & Power. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.

Arciniega ,Norma. "Traditional Igbo Culture Roles". YouTube. N.p., 04 Feb. 2014. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.

Created By
Lessley Lopez


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