The Socio-Economic Position of Yoruba Women from 1915 to 1925 With Emphasis on the Market Women
Terri S. Rouse
J. Congress Mbata
Thesis DT 3.5 1977 R863
vii, 90 leaves: ill.; 28 cm.
This thesis discusses the socio-economic position of Yoruba women from 1915 to 1925, with emphasis placed on the market woman. The market woman's socio-economic position was investigated by examining the extent to which the colonial period's economic demands and cultural influences altered her traditional position. Between 1900-1960, the British were primarily concerned with extracting the produced goods and raw resources from the coast and hinterlands of Nigeria. The drive to remove the maximum volume of goods and resources simultaneously meant that definite influences would be exerted on the social and economic structures of Yorubaland. These influences affected the society because a sub-group, the Yoruba market women, existed and their traditional operations were congruous with British plans.
Yoruba women who were traders had a decisive effect on the development of colonialism. The British system absorbed market women because agricultural goods such as palm kernels were marketed by women for middlemen, farmers, or for their husbands, thus providing a stream of goods into market areas. The Yoruba market system furnished Europeans with indigenous traders and indigenous markets in which to trade. It was to the advantage of the British to deal with market women and their market organizations because of the women's dominance over the market economy. These issues partially shaped the early colonial period of Nigeria particularly after January 1, 1915, when the North and the South were theoretically joined, and when the Yoruba market women increased their responses to the economic demands of the Europeans by marketing more produce.
In order for the structural effects of the colonial period to be examined fully, four propositions are discussed: 1) prior to the colonial period, the societal roles of Yoruba women were fundamentally defined by tradition; 2) with the onset of the colonial period, Britain's full scale program of Nigerian acculturation marked the beginning of change in the socio-economic status of Yoruba women; 3) the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1915 by Sir Frederick Lugard and the developments that occurred in the succeeding ten years precipitated an increase in the flow of trade from North to South, thus altering the structure of the market system; and 4) the Yoruba market women's businesses expanded as the demands for food increased and the British scheme unfolded.
The methodology used in this study employs two primary sources of information: 1) the available historical, economic, and social literature of Yoruba market women during the colonial period, principally during the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates and the following ten year period; and 2) British colonial documents explaining policy for the Nigerian protectorates during this same era. By utilizing these areas, a conclusion is formulated about the degree of British influence on the market women's social and economic position. The socio-economic role of Yoruba women before and during the amalgamation era is drawn from Niara Sudarkasa's Where Women Work; a study of Yoruba women in the marketplace and the home (1973), and Gloria Marshall's The Marketing of Farm Produce; some patterns of trade among women in Western Nigeria (1964). Germane colonial policy was extracted from Sir Frederick Lugard's Lugard and the Amalgamation, and Sir William N.M. Geary's Nigeria Under British Rule. Both authors were colonial officials whose responsibility was to maintain political control and to see to it that the colony generated a profit for the United Kingdom.
In conclusion, British officials required the cooperation of market women and went to great lengths to assure that the essence of traditional Yoruba trade was not changed, while at the same time, colonial officials introduced the use of market stalls, the licensing of traders, and British currency as tender. However, they did not tamper with everyday trade practices. The expanding distribution system created more opportunities for additional trade, and spread the profits through a larger body of people. Nevertheless, the economic expansion cause tidal waves of change to pass through the social structure, modifying or eliminating practices which did not fit the needs of the economy. Market women were only one sector of the community affected by colonial expansion but as a unit they were essential to the economy, culture, and the state system of Yorubaland.