Diokpara - the privileges and responsibilities of a firstborn in Igbo and Swiss culture
In Igbo culture, the firstborn child, particularly the firstborn son, holds a unique responsibility and respect within the family. He is often seen as the inheriting head of the family and is expected to fulfill specific duties and responsibilities.
The role of the firstborn son in Igbo culture
“The first-born son in Igbo culture is expected to fulfill a number of important duties and responsibilities, while also enjoying special rights and privileges within the family.”
One of the primary responsibilities of the firstborn son is to take care of and support his parents as they age. This may include providing financial and practical assistance and ensuring that the parents are well taken care of and respected within the community.
The firstborn son is also expected to play a leadership role within the family, helping to make decisions and resolve conflicts. He may also be responsible for representing the family in various public or community events.
In addition to these responsibilities, the firstborn son holds certain rights within the family. For example, he may have the right to inherit the family's property and wealth and may be given preferential treatment in certain matters.
Overall, the firstborn son in Igbo culture is expected to fulfill a number of important duties and responsibilities while also enjoying special rights and privileges within the family.
The role of the firstborn son in Switzerland
The traditional role of the firstborn son in Switzerland used to be quite similar (or maybe it still is in the countryside). The oldest son of a farming family, for example, was expected to take over the house and animals once his parents passed away. But these expectations have changed with better education for girls, more financial independence, and new values. Today, also a girlchild can inherit a farm from her parents. Further, aged people do not rely on their children for financial support or healthcare, as the government is providing better for them.
However, some things haven't changed:
The firstborn child may be looked to as a leader or an example by their younger siblings and may be expected to set a good example in terms of behavior and academics.
Assisting with household chores and responsibilities: Depending on the age and maturity of the firstborn child, they may be expected to help with household chores and responsibilities such as looking after younger siblings or helping with cooking and cleaning.
Taking on extra responsibilities in the family business: In families with a family business, the firstborn child may still be expected to take on a more active role in helping to run the business or to take over the business when the parents retire eventually.
The role of the firstborn son in our family
Funny enough, our firstborn kids are twins - Chijioke and Ziora. But do not make a mistake. Chijioke was born 2 minutes before Ziora - and he is well aware of being the Diokpara. He keeps mentioning it to anyone asking (and not asking), as it is essential to him. I think mainly because Ziroa, at this age, is almost one head taller than him. So knowing that he is the firstborn gives him confidence and a sense of superiority.
“Being the Diokpara is not just enjoying the ofe onugbu, but having the strength to pound the ji that goes with it”
And even though I have been raised knowing that in my culture, there is no difference between my elder brother and me (as we share the same rights and responsibilities), I am well aware that it is different for Igbo culture. Therefore, we have started explaining to Chijioke early on that his role in the family comes with special rights and responsibilities.
We encourage him to be a role model, to take care of his younger siblings, and to help them if they are in need. At the same time, he gets some extra privileges, like staying up a little longer than the others are getting to fill his plate first when it is time to eat. He is also aware that he will eventually inherit his father's house in the village one day - but know that he will make sure that his siblings are okay as well. So being the Diokpara is not just enjoying the ofe onugbu, but having the strength to pound the ji that goes with it.
Last but not least
I decided always to end my blog posts with an Igbo proverb or quote and a song (not necessarily Igbo) that speaks to my heart. Feel free to share your favorite proverbs or a song you are currently listening to!
Igbo quote of the week:
Igbo Proverb: O ji akụ kwaa nna, ọ bụghị diọkpara gburu ya.
English Translation: Whichever son is wealthy should bear the funeral expenses of his father; the first son did not kill him.
Meaning and Insight to Life: Always do the necessary if you can, irrespective of your position in the family or community.
My song this week: Game Changer (Dike) - Flavour
This blog is neither scientific research nor a social study; instead, it is written with much appreciation for the Igbo culture from the subjective perspective of the author, based on personal experience. Generalizations must be read with care, as no truth is true for everyone. And most importantly, this blog is to be read with a smile and a pinch of salt (or pepper in this context).