The New Generation Of Feminists Reclaiming Women-only Parties In Nigeria
Every summer, our Nigerian mothers begin to worry – not the usual state of fuss over what we’ll eat for dinner or the friends we keep, but about the upcoming August Meeting. Traditionally, the women – specifically married women of Igboland, Southeastern Nigeria – gather in their husband’s hometown each August for several days to address issues that affect the community. While some argue that these gatherings empower women, leading to positive change (for example, erecting health clinics and secondary schools, arguing for reform on malpractices against widows), many see it as an elitist space, where status and wealth is celebrated, and self-esteem killed – a system dedicated to continuing the cycle of patriarchal control.
Women-only meetings have ancient roots in Nigeria. The Ụmụ Ada and Otu Alutaradi – groups of married women whose common bond was their place of birth or place of marriage, respectively – have met regularly to address local concerns for centuries. They were known as conflict resolvers, they championed for women’s rights and were part of the groups that led the Women’s War in 1929 against colonialism.
In the 1940s, the Church Missionary Societies saw the strength of these groups and proposed the idea of the August Meeting as an incarnation of what our ancestors originated. The topics of discussion were now influenced by religious-backed patriarchal ideals; discussions centred on how they could be more subservient wives and there were punishments for those who ‘failed’. Women were even tried, fined and ostracised for their transgressions.
For most of our young lives, daughters like me watched our mothers attend meetings that taught them to be submissive to men. They still do; in 2022, the Enugwu-Ukwu Women’s Anglican Communion meeting in Awka placed the burden of home-building on women. Community member Adeline Mbachu told attendees: “As women, we should strive to control our anger in the face of provocation, stop nagging, fault finding... Women should be humble and not confrontational.” Teachings such as these are upheld by our mothers if they’re to remain virtuous in the eyes of the church.
In a typical August meeting, women drink, dance, and – as many of us see it – flaunt their affluence. Meetings rarely stray from debating how females should respond to patriarchal tenets in society. Think of the Real Housewives, but with more food, music – and misogyny. But now, the legacy of these events is leading Gen-Z and Millennial pioneers to create spaces of their own. The new mantra? Come for the feminism, stay for the party. Or vice versa.
This latest revolutionary model of women-only parties allows women to luxuriate in a new type of sisterhood in Nigeria. One pioneer is tech entrepreneur Dami Odufuwa, who set up Wine and Whine in 2019 alongside Odun Eweniyi. She runs meetings in Lagos once a year and more regularly online. “The idea is to give women room to speak; to share ideas, vent about everyday misogyny and aggressions they experience while bonding with other women,” she says. “For me, moving back to Nigeria [from the UK] aged 25, already feminist and hyper aware of misogyny, I often felt like I was going crazy based on my everyday interactions. But when I started relishing in friendships with like minds, I [saw that] other women needed community and room to vent. So, I reached out to my cofounder Odun and we created what became Wine & Whine.”
What they have created is a space where women feel safe to share their thoughts on dismantling patriarchal ideals. Food and drink is abundant, there’s music by female artists to dance to, games to play and financially motivational topics are taught by select speakers. Best of all, there’s no hierarchical disparity between attendees; only a shared understanding of what fellowship means to the advancement of women’s cause.
Other similar parties include the annual Hertitude, hosted by Nigerian magazine Zikoko to celebrate and empower women, while feminist journalist Angel Nduka-Nwosu organises Gist and Drinks, where women can come together to network, listen to music, party and educate one other. There’s also Femme Fest by Femme Magazine, which increases the representation and visibility of women in the creative industries. These events – held across Nigeria, attracting thousands of attendees – are a reenactment of the Ụmụ Ada groups’ bravery, yet with ideals that are entrenched in decentring men. They’re committed to fighting the patriarchy while enjoying pure, unadulterated fun.
Chidinma Iwu (@Chidxnma) is a Nigeria-based journalist who covers the intersection of culture, tech, and social policies for publications including Shondaland, Paste Mag, Black Ballad, The Daily Dot and Missing Perspectives