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Childlessness and its Effect in African Society in Flora Nwapa’s One Is Enough and Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys Of Motherhood

Childlessness and its Effect in African Society in Flora Nwapa’s One Is Enough and Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys Of Motherhood

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This research work examines the theme of Childlessness and its Effect in African Society in Flora Nwapa’s One is Enough and Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood. Over the years, the ugly and humiliating treatment meted out to childless women in African societies and the subsequent misrepresentation of these women characters in this literary works pose a great problem and a need in this research work.

The image created of these childless women in African contemporary society is so deplorable such that, these women are subjected to serious oppression, humiliation and disillusioned in their marital homes. Based on the opinion of critics, it is discovered that these women indeed suffered the pains of both cultural and societal injustices in the society which stem from the patriarchal domineering nature of African societies which all through history have been unfavourable to women like that of Amaka in One is Enough and Nnu-Ego in The Joys of Motherhood. The research work therefore calls for a change of attitude towards childless women whose condition demand understanding and consolation in the society.



1.1     Background to the Study

The effect of childlessness is a terrible situation in the African matrimonial homes. It is such a topical issue that attracts the attention of every member of the society in Africa. This is because of the social, emotional, spiritual and psychological trauma. It generates on both the couples and the extended family. It has raised a lot of dust that medical experts, churches, social workers, lawyers, literary artists and the entire society have joined in the campaign to address the problem and find solution to it.

In Lauretta Ngloho article African Motherhood Myth and Reality, she observes that

Marriage amongst Africans is mainly an institution for the control of procreation. Every woman is encouraged to marry and bear children in order to express her womanhood to the full (533).

This is because of the high premium placed on children as the symbol of family continuity and his accounts for the reason why procreation is considered the paramount and the primary purpose of any marriage contracted in African societies. For the man, it is a sacred duty towards his whole lineage to advance the family name. Failure to immortalize the ancestors, according to Ngloho is thus, a taboo and a shame that a man cannot bear a child. In the past, childlessness was considered as an irrevocable scourge that constitutes untold crises, havocs, instabilities and continuous unhappiness in several marriages.  Today, many marriages collapse owing to childlessness.

Separations and remarriages are occasion by this particular problem of childlessness. Therefore in view of this, a childless women is considered a monster, nuisance and also someone who should be dispensed with in the family. These undue vilification, victimization and injustices meted out to childlessness. Childless women in African society always attract side talks and molestation from people and also family members. Is to this course that Flora Nwapa and Buchi Emecheta portray in their novels challenging and satirizing these hostile forces that make the world a hell for childless women in African societies.

1.2     Statement of the Problem   

Childless women in African society are always blamed for not bearing children and they are always facing and experiencing victimization and societal humiliation. These unfortunate childless women are often vilified, victimized and even compelled to leave their matrimonial homes.

This is because they exist in a society that women are been pinpoint as the cause of childlessness and their conditions are often interpreted from a purely patriarchal perspective. This female characters especially those in the novel under study are often victims and are found to be struggling against the pains of both cultural and patriarchal injustice. This study, therefore adds to the existing wealth of knowledge in African literature by exploring the theme and its effects of childlessness in this research work.

1.3     Purpose of the study   

The purpose of this research work is to educate the society especially Africans that women should not be blame or pinpoint as the cause of childlessness in the family or African society. In the course  of this, study we will also examine and discuss the theme of childlessness and  its effects in African society. In the study of Flora Nwapa’s One is Enough and Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood.

1.4     Significance of the study 

This study will be significant to the general public especially social workers, psychologist, feminist activists and students of English and literary studies in understanding the societal notion  of childlessness and establishing true ground for proper appreciation of childless couples in African cultural milieu.

1.5     Objectives of the study   

This research intends to examine the various implications of childlessness on married couples in African society.

  • It examines the extent to which societal scone, isolation and victimization affects the psychological and emotional stability of childless women.
  • The study equally looks into the various ways these childlessness female characters challenge and break off from unjust tradition that exploit, humiliate and isolate them in the society and how they achieve in the end a measure of independence and self actualization in life.
  • Above all, this research work calls for societal review of attitude towards childless women who suffer from social and psychological disadvantages in a patriarchal society as portrayed by Flora Nwapa and Buchi Emecheta.

1.6     Scope and Limitation of the Study

The scope of this will be limited to Flora Nwapa’s One is Enough and Buchi Emecheta’s The Joy of Motherhood.

1.7     Research Methodology

The main focus of this research work will be on Flora Nwapa’s One if Enough and Buchi Emecheta’s The Joy of Motherhood as its major sources. While other sources like library, journals, articles will be added for more information as its secondary sources. Therefore, it is library based research.



5.1     Summary

This research work examines the theme of childlessness and its effect in African society in Flora Nwapa’s One is Enough and Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood. The study has taken in consideration how societal mockery, isolation and victimization affect the psychological and emotional stability of childless women and how these unfortunate women challenge and break off from the unjust traditional forms that make the world a hell for them.

The study reveals the calculated attempts by two (2) African novelists, Nwapa and Emecheta to expose the horrible fate of childless women in patriarchal domineering societies like that of Amaka and Nnu-Ego. Their novels expose the ugly experiences and treatment meted out to childless women in both traditional and also in contemporary African settings.

5.2     Conclusion

From a general assessment of the havoc caused by childlessness in marriage as presented in African literature, we noticed that both immediate family and entire society contributes to the agonies suffered by childless women’s African traditional settings. To ensure self actualization and fulfillment in life, the two (2) protagonists (Amaka and Nnu-Ego) refuse the societal scorn that they are barren and useless and this makes them to indulge in extra-marital relationships which results in pregnancies, a situation that prove them fertile and save them from  further societal scorn. Though they achieve their aims of getting pregnant, their various means are all responsible.

Thus Amaka seduces a priest to achieve her long desired pregnancy. In six years without issue was divorced and later married to Nnaife who fortunately give him a baby but later died. Thus Nnu-Ego later token and gives birth to many children.

Much as they have achieved their heart desires and fulfillment as mothers, they have achieved and also offended societal morality, most especially Amaka who seduces a priest.

An important question bangs in the air, why do Nwapa choose to use a priest to prove the fertility of Amaka? It could be prove that most men are unfaithful than the women or to state that Amaka and Nnu-Ego would not been declared barren by the Society, most especially Amaka. Amaka if she had not indulged in extramarital relationship while remaining with her husband, will she still be barren or childless? Above all, thesis to say that men too can be infertile, the women should not always be blame for infertility.

Finally, this study draws attention to the fact that childlessness is not a cause or a crime as it is generally seen in most African society and literatures.

5.3     Recommendations

Based on findings of this research work, the researcher recommends that:

  1. More literary artists need to establish through their writings a framework for proper appreciation of childless women in African cultural milieu.
  2. The issue of male dominance and cultural inhibitions that prevent childless women from actualizing their happiness and fulfillment in life should be eradicated.
  3. Childless women place low in the society and the continuous victimization these childless women are subjected to, they are often found struggling against patriarchal oppression and societal prejudices should put to stop.
  4. Men whose wives are childless should not put more pressure on them and should stop humiliating them and also domestic violence against childless women should stop.


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Amamgbo, Chiamaka. Which way Nigeria. Childlessness in marriage. African Wond Press, 2009.

Buchi Emecheta. The Joys of Motherhood. Heinemann Educational Books Nigeria, 1979.

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Chukwuma, Helen. Positivism and the female crisis. The novels of Buchi Emecheta Nigerian female writers. A critical perspective ed. Lagos Mact Houses Press Ltd, 1989.

Flora Nwapa. One is enough. Tana Press Ltd, 1981.

Ferdman Oju-kuo. Effect of infertility and causes of divorce among women. Journal of social and religious concern, vol. 2 No/ 1, 1999. 

Henry Ekwuruke. The predicaments of childless in African couples  journal of marriage and family. Vol. 41, No. 2.

Lauretta Ngloho. African motherhood  myth and reality. African literature: an anthology of criticism and theory. Blackwall publishing Ltd, 2007.

McQuillan Greil. Frustrated fertility: infertility and psychological distress among women. Journal of marriage and family. Volume 65, number 4, 2003.

Okonofua Frank. Introduction in what about us. Brining infertility into reproductive health care, 2002.

Xavier Leon. Cited Kalu Woff. Motherhood concept among Igbo women in socio-economic change. Institute of African studies, 2008.

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