In Hausaland, women of marriageable age who remain single are seen as suspects, their respectability questioned. Throughout many parts of the Muslim world, divorced and widowed women are forced to go back home to their relations who see them as not only burden but failure also, hence the Hausa adage, “Darajar mace dakin mijin ta” i.e. a woman is worthy only in her husband’s home, drives the desire that every woman of marriageable age should get married. No excuses are condoned.
In Hausaland, it is a universal truth almost that a woman of a certain age, should have a husband, for a divorcee or a widow, finding a husband isn’t an easy task, yet the Hausaland is the nation’s gold medal winner in divorce cases.
The situation has since reached a crisis point. Battalions of unmarried women including widows and divorcees and even those that are yet to marry are roaming our streets. The latter class is made up of mostly women that have been educated up till the tertiary level. In fact, the latter category is in as much dire straits as the divorced ones. Such women either have paid jobs in offices or are simply living on the favours of their families. Even though many sport a veneer of self-satisfaction, they invariably exist in abject situations, wondering what tomorrow will bring, hoping against hope!
Some have had relationships that ended as failures. If they continue to live with their parents or relations, they would begin to be regarded as having ‘overstayed’ their welcome, and the families could begin to get tired of seeing them around.
Their situation tends to confirm the belief by many observers that there is a serious shortage of eligible husbands in the region which corrodes old values such as polygamy.
It is now clear that if one needs a divorcee as a wife; all they would do is find their way to Kano, the most populous state in the north and which boast of over a million divorcees.
In a commendable effort, the Kano state government, through its Hisbah Board, plans to marry off about 1,000 of such divorcees and has launched a massive husband hunt for divorcees and widows in the state.
The board must be commended for its effort in solving marital problems and as such preventing the breakages of hundreds of thousands of marriages which would have doubled and re-doubled the number of divorcees in Kano.
One question that should bother the clergy as well as the authorities is: why does our part of the country have the worst record of divorce cases? Many believe women will only be able to win the hearts and minds of their husbands through cooking for them, good food, dressing in a sexy and seductive way as well as by being less demanding, an attribute, it is believed, most Hausa women lack.
There are those who believe that the alarming rate of divorce in the Hausaland is a cultural problem. Hausa women, they say, are disrespectful and argumentative even though their motive has nothing to do with assertiveness on account of their marital rights.
The plight of widows only become more known to the general public when Hajiya Altine Abdullahi founded the Kano-based Voice of Widows, Divorcees and Orphans Association of Nigeria (VOWAN). Altine has been in the forefront of the struggle on the rights of divorcees in Hausaland, specifically in Kano, and is among the 1,000 divorcees to be married-off by Kano government.
She once advised her fellow women in a press interview: “If your husband divorces you, please stay put and do your “Iddah” in his house; continue to dress sexily; always clean yourself; wear a nice perfume and always smile for him and before you know it, he will succumb to your temptation and take you to bed. “It is better to do that and get your husband back than to pack and go to your parents; because after having many children nobody will marry you,” she said.
Two years ago, she planned to hold a ‘one million divorcees’ march’ across Kano with the sole aim of highlighting the plight of this category of women. Even though the march was stopped by the Hisbah Board for fears that the event might be seized by hoodlums, it brought to the fore an issue that had been largely ignored by the powers that be.
No matter what people may say Hajiya Altine and Kano state Hisbah Board will be remembered for initiating a solution to one of the most disheartening social problems bedeviling the Hausa/Fulani people.
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