Akinfenwa, O.B
Women studies in Religion have emerged over the last two decades as an area of
scholarships with major implication for Religious life and thoughts. This scholarship
distinguished from other approaches to the study of religion by its fundamental concern
for gender as crucial variable in Religion. This recognition is due to the fact that they are
relevant in every area of life. Although, woman was made from the rib taken out of man
(Gen. 2:22) which indicates that she is weaker vessel, she proves to be mentally and
physically competent to face the challenges of the world.
Religion prescribes some roles for women in terms of productivity and contribution to
societal development. This paper will attempt to examine the Religious roles of women in
home management and child training which is crucial issue in society and national
development. The focus will be restricted to women in Christianity and Yoruba Religion.
A contribution of primary and secondary sources will be utilized.
Women in Contemporary African Society
Women, throughout the world have been playing important role in the development of
their immediate environment. They were called to play Religious roles in various aspect
of life as their male counterpart. They Religiously function in the home, political arena
and economic domain etc. this is to show that their contribution is not limited to one
aspect of life but across boundaries. What Basden says about Igbo women’s role in the
society is true about women in many part of Africa. He says:
The most striking facts perhaps about women are that
they are extraordinarily alike. They are intensely
conservative in their habit and their ideas and to know
one is to know all, these women have their clubs and
societies in every town and exercise great influence in
various directions.
The place of women in the contemporary African society is closely linked with the
status of women in African traditional society. Religion dominates the life of the Africans
and therefore plays an important part in determining the status and roles of African
women in the society.
A survey of continental scene reveals that in almost all parts of Africa woman in the
traditional times play definite roles that are often recognized.
Every institution in Africa society is religiously oriented and religion permeates the
people’s lives. Religion enters into the life of an individual in the society, therefore
institutions such as betrothal and marriage are seen as religious activities in African
Marriage institution is as old as man in African society. God, who is the creator and
controller of the universe, established it. God who owns the society also owns the
individual life that made up the society. He therefore established marriage institution so
as to maintain oneness and bring cohesion into the society.
Marriage means the formal union of man and woman by which they become husband
and wife. The relationship between husband and wife later developed into family
institution and multiply through procreation and child bearing. Both husband and have
important roles to play in the home front in order to raise good children who will be
useful to the family and the society at large. Women occupy important position in the
home and therefore play a crucial role the home management and training of the children.
Child training is not an easy task. Therefore religion sets in to achieve the desire goal.
In African society, children are believed to imitate the mother more than any other
person around them. A mother is often blamed on any mistake on the child’s part. A
Yoruba proverb captures this notion succinctly : owu ti iya ba gbon lomo o ran. It
literarily mean that the cotton wool that the mother processed will be woven together by
the child. Mothers are compared to gold while fathers are compared to in another adage ;
iya ni wurai Baba ni dingi. A disobedient child is also referred to as his mother’s child.
This is to show that such a woman is negligent in her child rearing duty.
A woman is therefore responsible for the training of the children in the home to
become useful to the family and the nation in the future. She is also to cater for the
physical, emotional and the spiritual needs of the family. She is also expected to inculcate
in the children the virtues of obedience, tolerance, love, kindness, discipline,
responsibilities, and honesty and above all the fear of God. Children who have imbibed
these virtues grow up to become responsible citizens who will avoid social ill which are
inimical to societal peace progress and stability.
A woman is also in charge of home management and she is expected to use the
available resources effectively to cater for the family. Man by nature of their work have
no time for home management, they can only provide the money and the resources.
Besides every successful man there must be a woman, so an adage says.
This is support the fact that women have a role to play within the family and the society
at large. A man is not yet regarded as responsible and respected until he is married.
Woman therefore is recognized as the backbone of the family because of the important
roles she plays in the society.
Women in Christianity
The woman from the Biblical point of view in the Old Testament (Gen 2) is presented
as helper fit for man. She is the bone of his bone and the flesh of flesh. God the creator of
mankind from the beginning established the family. Women have been accorded
important position in the home front and family management from time immemorial. A
good woman is described in the Bible as a good fortune (Proverbs 18: 2), and gift from
God (Proverbs 19:14), and crown to her husband (Excl 26:1-4). The qualities of a woman
such as beauty, intelligence, silence, discipline, modesty diligence are also highlighted in
the Bible. According to the Bible, (Eccl. 36:22-26)the mother is expressly included in
precepts of honour and obedience which children must pay to their parent. There are
indications of women who perform excellent functions in the Old Testament. Among
such women were Rahab (Joshua 2) who rescued the spies sent by Joshua to Jericho. She
later saved her family from destruction, Abigail (1 Sam. 25: 14) who saved her husband’s
life from death, the woman of Shunem (2 kings 4:8ff) who provided shelter for Elisa the
man of God and Esther (Esther 2:7, Esther 5) who saved her people from destruction.
Deborah was a Hebrew heroine and was called a prophetess. The scripture pictures her as
sitting under a palm in the country with people coming to her for counsel (Judges 4: 124).
In the New Testament Jesus interacted with women throughout his earthly ministry at
different levels. Jesus in recognition of women’s plight attended to their various needs
and then ensured their physical and spiritual well-being. Women ministered to jesus
needs and that of his disciples. Jesus uplifted the dignity of women and bestowed on them
the plans of God for them from the beginning. Women such as Mary Magdalene, Joana
and Susanna played vital roles in the earthly ministry of Jesus. They met his daily his
daily needs and were also present at his foot when he was crucified. Jesus was also
anointed by a woman in the preparation for his death and resurrection. The women were
the first to hear about his resurrection.
Today, Christian women’s role continues in the society. Christian members and the
society feel their impact, although women were not allowed to be ordained in many
churches in Nigeria.
They still contribute immensely to the growth and development of the church. The roles
of women as the helpmate are still relevant among the Christian today.
Christian churches today have strong women associations, such as The Baptist Women
Missionary Union, Mother’s Union of the Anglican Church, The Catholic Women
Organization (C.W.O.) of Nigeria which is a branch of the World Union of Catholic
Women Organizations (W.U.C.W.O.). Each of these organizations provided a forum for
women in their churches and constitutes a force to be reckoned with both in the church
and the society.
They organized seminars workshops where women roles to the home, the church and
the society are discussed. The women organizations also give direct aids to less
privileged members of the society. They also contribute in cash and kind to the upkeep of
such institutions as motherless babies home, homes for the disabled and orphanages.
Christian women also have weekly programmed where the roles of women are
discussed. They are also expected to be like virtuous woman in Proverbs 31 who provides
for her family in every area. They are thought to take good care of their homes and their
husbands, as they are mirror to their husbands and children. The y also have counseling
units who often counsel the youths and couple to-be, especially the woman on home
management and child rearing. Divorce is not part of what Christian Women preach,
rather they love, peace and long suffering. Opportunities are also provided to train
women on how to be creative and start small-scale business for the management of the
family. The main aims and objectives of Christian Women are to create a conducive and
peaceful atmosphere in the family for the training of the children.
This paper has explained the religious roles of women in the family management and
child training. The important position occupied by women in the contemporary society is
also highlighted. The role of Christian Women in the home front and the Church are also
discussed. The fact still remains that women were created to perform religious functions
in the society. They are conscious of these obligations and effectively perform the
functions. The woman must be given the necessary support and encouragement in the
society so as to continue to demonstrate their God given talents.
Notes and References
1. G. T. Basden: Among the Ibo of Nigeria, (Lodon: Frank Class and Co Ltd., 1996),
2. J.O. Awolalu & Ade Dopamu, West African Traditional Religion, (Ibadan:
Onibonoje Press Ltd., 1979), p. 208.
3. ibid., p. 208.
4. Catherine Soanes, Oxford Dictionary of Current English, (Oxford: University
Press, 2001), p. 553.
5. iNgeria Magazine Vol. 53, No. 4 Oct- Dec. 1985, p.24.
6. Sunday Tribune 30th June, 2002, P.9.