In the panel discussion, Her Stories, Our Stories, Carmen McCain hosted a diverse group of writers who are talking with the power of their pens. Carmen brings out the voices of Balaraba Ramat Yakubu, Hadiza El-Rufa’i and Fatima Umar to tell us their stories, our stories of women in the frontline.
Balaraba Ramat Yakubu is a Nigerian author who writes in Hausa and boasts nine novels all in Hausa. Her novel Alhaki Kwikwiyo Ne, ‘Sin is a Puppy’, is one of the few Hausa novels that has been translated into English. She has worked as a screenwriter, producer and director in Hausa movies. Balaraba’s stories focus on issues of child marriage, and women education. She is the younger sister to General Murtala Ramat Muhammed a former Nigerian Head of State. However at the age of 13, Balaraba was taken out of school and forced to marry. This is what made Balaraba to writer her stories in Hausa, stories that will become our own stories through her novels.
Balaraba’s writing touches topical issues in the life of the Hausa woman. Because of these themes in her writing she was threatened, abused and persecuted. The issue in Kano was such that during the censorship board crisis, even PEN International had to be involved towards empathising with the Kano Hausa writers. Balaraba channeled all this experiences in most of her writings and novels. She says during the panel discussion that, it is only in Hausaland that a man divorces you and sends you packing with all of your children away. “The Hausa woman is not a slave, why is she then always the one persecuted?”
The second panelist, Fatima A. Umar is the Editor in Chief at Jaruma Magazine, a platform where northern women speak their minds. Jaruma is an online lifestyle magazine for the modern day women that discuss the challenges, issues, hopes and dreams of a Nigerian woman. Jaruma creates her stories, our stories.
Fatima’s job is to challenge the stereotypes of northern women. She says: “I mean you go somewhere, you speak English as a northern woman, and people are amazed”.
Divorce diaries to Fatima started, as therapy after being divorced at age 21, and she could not talk about all the issues. From the very first issue, Divorce Diaries went viral. On the panel, she says: “I am trying my best to create awareness on a lot of things we do that are wrong.”
Hadiza El-Rufa’i our final panelist is a writer and an architect. Her first novel Life After Death is coming soon from Ouida Books. Hadiza has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath University. She is the founder of Yasmin El-Rufa’i Foundation named after her late daughter. From the snippet read by Hadiza on the panel, her upcoming novel promises then to be a tantalizing teaser especially about writing from Northern Nigeria. This is an indication of a different triangle of the love stories and sexual fantasies of northern women.
In this panel, the stories of the northern woman were dissected, opened up and sliced by heroines of Hausa literature from the times of Balaraba Ramat and her experiences, to the late blossoming writing of Hadiza El-Rufa’i and her teasing write-up as well as the fiery role of Fatima A. Umar and the work that is Jaruma Magazine. The Northern women are rising and their stories told time after time continue to bite and sting against the devilry of patriarchy.
Written By Sada Malumfashi