Hajiya Hafsat Abdulwaheed is the first female author in Northern Nigeria. She is the mother of a veteran journalist, Kadaria Ahmed and a wife of Kaduna State governor, Asia Ahmed El-Rufai. In this interview with ABDUSSALAM AMOO, the Kano-born rights activist bares her mind on the challenges of being a major voice in a male-dominated society in the region.
How was it like when you started writing?
I have been writing since I was seven years old. Writing is a family thing. My father and my grandfather were writers. I wrote my first published book in 1972. Then, I entered into a writing competition. My first book is called Aljannar Duniya (meaning “Love is Paradise on Earth). It was originally published in Hausa and has now been translated into Arabic and Fulfulde. So, from that time, I have been writing. Even now, I am still writing. I have six books published in Hausa originally but only one, a book of poetry, in English.
What have been the challenges of writing and publishing?
Well, publishing, you know, is very expensive. If you want to publish your book, you have to spend a lot of money. I don’t sell my books. Most of the times, I give my books out for reading. It is still a challenge to publish a book.
Did you face opposition from male writers being the lone female writer then?
I had no problem with that. Recall that I said earlier that I came from a writer. However, I was criticised. My first book was a love story. For a female to write a love book would definitely attract the criticisms of our mallams. You know some of our mallams are biased about women. Besides that, I had no problem.
Your daughters are notable in the society today. What different approach did you use in bringing them up?
Well, their father and I believe that both male and female children are blessings from God. So, we treat them equally and give them equal opportunities. I have seen how sometimes, in the north, women suffer discrimination. We encouraged ours to get proper education so that they would not be taken for a ride. Anyway, we gave them freedom.
What’s your advice to parents out there?
My advice to parents is that they allow their children to achieve what they want. They should be given proper education and encourage them in whatever career path they choose rather than forcing them to do what they don’t want.
Will you call yourself a feminist?
No. I am not a feminist. I believe women should be allowed to take care of themselves. Let them know the value of womanhood. Let them know they are cherished and are not second class human beings. They should be taught that everything a man can do, they can do it in their nature as women.