Urhobo Historical Society


November 1-3, 2002
Goldsmiths College of London University
Goddis Restaurant, 126 New Cross Road, London SE14

Women's Roundtable Discussion:
Role of Women in Urhobo History and Culture

1. Mrs. L. O. Obiomah, Chair,
Delta State, Nigeria.

2. Mrs. Helen Ekeh Ph.D.
Buffalo, New York, U. S. A.

3. Mrs. G. E. Aghoghovbia,
4. Chief (Mrs) Agnes Ukueku,

5. Mrs. Comfort Ogbomo,

Chair's (Mrs. L. O. Obiomah's) Opening Remarks and Comments

All of you, very precious and notable Urhobo ladies, I greet you and welcome you to this occasion to discuss " The Role of Women in Urhobo History and Culture". What this means to me is this. The daily life of Urhobo Women is their culture and the events which take place over a period is their history.

In the present case the role of Urhobo women in Urhobo history and culture can be considered as falling into the following stages:

(a) The stage before the coming of the white man into our lives
(b) The early stage of the coming of the white man
(c) The present stage

Next we need to examine how the changes taking place from one stage to the other have affected the outlook of Urhobo women and actual content of their lives. For instance, we must note the transition from the time when daughters were married away, and the dowry obtained on their account by the family was used to educate sons, to the change that enabled a few daughters to become educated, working as nurses, teachers and typists. Such circumstances of our womenfolk was a far cry to the present stage when the Urhobo woman is a learned lawyer, a professional, a medical doctor, etc., all of which means that she is no longer tied to the home and village environment but is exposed to the outside world both to compete with non-Urhobo men and women and to acquire new manners and other languages of communication. All of these new changes do mean that our Urhobo language is either declining or growing.

Over the years, what are the names of some of the women who have been great achievers in their various engagements? I can list some.


1. Mrs Unokegwo -  Commissioner for information Bendel State. Miss Judith Enamuotor, Commissioner for information, Delta State
3. Dr. Miss Omamor , Commissioner Delta state


4. Mrs. Grace Ekpighwre, Head of Service
5. Mrs. Christiana Siakpere, Accountant-General and Permanent Secretary, Ministry Finance
6. Mrs. Christiana Ejofdomi, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Arts and Culture


7. Justice Mrs. Okungbowa (from Agbarho) Chief Judge
8. Justice (Chief) Mrs. Rosaline Bozimo (from Agbarha-Warri)
9. Justice I. Odiete


10. Mrs. Joan Ibuje Rtd., Principal Anglican Girls Grammar School, Bendel State
11. Dr. Patience Scott-Emuakpor, Eye Specialist, Scott-Emuakpor Eye Hospital, Warri
12. Prof. Mrs. Okobia, Provost, Oleh Campus, University of Abraka, Delta State
13. Mrs. Erhirhe Young, Director Ministry of Education Asaba Delta State
14. Mrs. Emotokare Ikogho, Principal Ogini Grammar School, Ogharefe.


15. Mrs. Alice Eminokaju Obahor (late)

Although not literate, yet she was a very successful trader with John Holt Plc. She became a Director of John Holt and bought over John Holt premises in Warri, thus becoming the company's landlady. She owned valuable landed property. She was generous and was patronized and respected by dignitaries in both business and government circles. Business wise she can be referred to as the Urhobo Emotan or the Urhobo counterpart of Yoruba Moremi. She is survived by an only daughter, Mrs. C. Agodo, who is the president of Urhobo Ladies Association, Lagos.

16. Mrs. Cicilia Ibru, Managing Director (CEO) Oceanic Bank Plc
17. Chief Mrs. Lady Agbaza, (nee Jefia) Teacher, Woman Entrepreneur and property Developer
18. Mrs. Augustina Okwu, Company Sec/Legal Adviser, Oceanic Bank Plc
19. Mrs. Enayemrofovbe Agodo, Regional Manager Lagos North, Oceanic Bank, Plc. Discovered at the on going Urhobo Historical Society Conference;-
20. Prof. Mrs. Helen Ekeh, Buffalo, New York
21.  Dr. Amy Emerhi.

Very importantly, what is the effect of the changes on family life for the better or worse?

Please feel free to add to this introduction of the subject and let us discuss it as fully as we can. Without attempting to forestall discussion, my own view is that the Urhobo Woman  has remained the industrious partner to her husband contributing quite well to the success of family and the home.

 Chair's (Mrs. L. O. Obiomah's) Report of Discussions
By Panel Members and the General Audience

Present on the panel.

1. Mrs. L. O. Obiomah Chairman, Delta State, Nig.
2. Mrs. Helen Ekeh Ph.D. Buffalo, New York U. S. A.
3. Mrs. G. E. Aghoghovbia, London     
4. Chief (Mrs) Agnes Ukueku, London
5. Mrs. Comfort Ogbomo, London

It was a most lively discussion. The Urhobo Woman, it was agreed, had always been a helpful woman to her husband and the home, a very virtuous woman at every stage of Urhobo history. Her role from when she collected palm nuts with her husband and now that she is a medical doctor, a learned lawyer, professor, politician, etc., has been as a helpful partner in the home.

The body of  old women known as EMETOGBE -- literally "maidens back to the home retreat" due to great age per see or great age after the death of the husband -- tells the importance of marriage in Urhobo culture. Marriage is continuous until the woman comes back home through great age or by death. That is, even as Omotogbe a woman is  viewed as married with the in-law system intact.

It was lamented that the Urhobo language was on the decline due to the following factors:

(a) Not using the language in homes
(b) The Urhobo mother as co-bread winner spends less time at home now
(c) Urhobos no longer spend their whole lives in their native villages or towns. The rural environment is giving way to urban life with mixed norms seeming to weaken the Urhobo language.
(d) Some  Urhobos think it is more fashionable to use the English Language      
(e) Urhobo language is not taught in schools
(f) Urhobo language is not used in addressing gatherings. All of the above have affected the  ways of expression and the understanding of Urhobo thought, values and idiom

It was resolved that the Urhobo language should be spoken in every Urhobo home and also that the Urhobo language should be taught in schools in Urhobo speaking areas. Adult schools should be opened or reactivated to teach our young men and women the Urhobo language.

 The question of female circumcision was a touchy one. Some participants wanted it upheld and some were not enthusiastic about it. Those in favour say it is an impressive  and beautiful culture where the  Urhobo young woman moves towards marriage.

 Some participants insisted that our daughters should marry Urhobo men. They reasoned that intertribal marriage weakens the Urhobo  culture and causes decline in the use of  Urhobo  language. It was suggested that such insistence may cause undue unhappiness and may result in our young women being left on the shelf.

 It was a lively discussion cut short because time had run out. I will like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all who took part in the conference, especially those who were with me on the panel: Mrs. H. Ekeh, Ph.D; Mrs. B. E. Aghaghovbia; Chief (Mrs) A. Ukueku; and Mrs C. Ogbomo.

 It was a joy that Urboho women attended and participated in the Third Annual Conference of Urhobo Historical Society right through from Nov. 1-3, 2002, both at Goddis Place and at Goldsmiths College of London University. I most sincerely thank the organizers and members of Urhobo Historical Society for inviting Urhobo Women to take part. I am sure Urhobo Women the world over will be glad to attend subsequent conferences. Thank you for passing on the torch. God bless.

Lily Obiomah
Warri, Nigeria