Nigerian women are embracing feminism and fighting against conservative Muslim traditions such as child marriage and quick divorce through literature. Based in the ancient city of Kano, in northern Nigeria dozens of young Nigerian female authors challenge tradition with romance by selling their novellas about love and romantic relationships on market stalls. They do this in direct opposition to the strict interpretation of Islam that is observed in Nigeria and propagated by the extremist group Boko Haram who kidnapped 218 girls from a school in April of 2014.
The books, which are handwritten in the Hausa language run into thousands of titles and are proving extremely popular even if they are potentially dangerous to those who are writing and reading them. Last year, one young writer was badly beaten. A group of men gang-raped another in her home after she published a book about women’s rights in politics, according to Gidan Dabino. Books are censored and banned for their steamy content and authors and sellers have to be careful, but they refuse to stop.
Author Hadiza Nuhu Gudaji hand writing one of her romance novels.
Author Hadiza Nuhu Gudaji whose views on the treatment of women in Nigeria have earned her a status and recognition unusual for women in her society says “We write to educate people, to be popular, to touch others’ lives, to touch on things that are happening in our society,” Her novellas are so sought after that she was even invited to go on a radio talk show and discuss the issues and impact that her books have had. Including saving one fifteen year old girl from a forced marriage.
The novellas which are given the derogatory name of “littattafan soyayya, or “love literature,” Kano market literature or, more kindly, modern Hausa literature are made available to those who cannot read through 20 radio stations who broadcast daily readings.
With 1 in 5 women in Northern Nigeria denied an education and Boko Harem literally translating as “Western education is sinful”, these brave young women who write and distribute literature showing young girls that there is an alternative to the life they are currently being forced to live are improving and saving lives everyday even as they risk their own.
Long live the written word.