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Northern Feminism: Subtle Lessons From Queen Amina

Northern Feminism: Subtle Lessons From Queen Amina

The words feminism and feminist is used throughout the world to champion the women’s right, emancipation, suffrage and against a patriarchal system in all facet of human society. The Feminist situation teemed with contradictions. But this phenomenon is only relevant to and has significance in the globalised conjuncture.


Since the beginning of the feminist movement in Africa, there has been a divergent debate among the African intelligentsia, especially men. That feminist is un-African and has no space in African sociological mores. Here in Nigeria, progressive women from colonial and post-colonial period explored great women who have a tremendous accomplishment in the past. Examples abound. Some of who are Hajia Gambo Sawaba, Margaret Ekpo, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and Nwanyewura who started the Aba Women riot in 1929 to challenge against British colonial masters for clamp-down of women to work.

Queen Amina, the first female monarch in a dominated Hausa society, is remarkably known as the warrior or legendary queen. Much of her achievements is based on Kano Chronicle and oral tale. Her fame is spread so that there is a notable catchword within Zaria inhabitants, “any house without Amina, that house is inferior”. Even the earthen wall around Hausa is credited to her and became a paradigm across the Hausa states.

Amina Walls. PHOTO: Wikipedia

In recognition of the Queen, her name is immortalised via monuments. In Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in a hostel named after her “Queen Amina Hostel”. There is a famous school in Kaduna, Queen Amina Secondary School, in her honour and her statue is engraved at the National Theatre Lagos.

Amina was born in 1533 circa. She lived roughly two centuries before the emergence of Sokoto caliphate and holy war of Uthman Dan Fodio where he captured the region in 19 century. She is credited with constructing murals around the existing military camps that are that have become prosperous cities. These murals are today known as ‘ganuwar of Amina (Amina’s walls). Also, she is recognised as the one who brought kola nuts to Hausa land. Today, she is fondly remembered as Amina, rana de Yar Bakwa ta San’ (Amina, daughter of Nikatau, woman as capable as a man).

During her reign, Amina chose to spend her time intensifying warfare and military skills with warriors of the Zazzau (Zaria) cavalry. One rather interesting story about her is, Amina never married but took a temporary husband from soldiers she defeated. After making love at night, she slaughtered him to avoid revealing her secret.

As noted by Hodgkin (1960) in his book, Nigerian Perspective: An Historical Anthology, “Queen Amina [she] led her first military charge a few months after assuming power. For the rest of her [34 years] reign, she continued to fight and expand her kingdom to [its] greatest in history,” leading up an army to Nupe and, ruled Kano and Katsina at the cost of 34 years of warring.

Present-day women and ladies in the north juxtaposed the fact that Queen Amina is the first feminist to bloom into the limelight in a domineering patriarchal Hausa society.

Following the thresholds of Queen Amina, feminists in the North have made quite an impression on the cyberspace leading to #ArewaMeToo (an offshoot of #MeToo). The #ArewaMeToo is notably, women questioning men, fighting in sexual assault, gender violence, supporting girl-child education, speaking up against child molestation and rape, paedophilia, and ill-treatment in marital affairs.

Queen Amina of Zaria. PHOTO: Face2FaceAfrica

What is more? One can easily detect that the prominent northern writer Zainab Alkali may have been influenced by the great warrior. Her work, The Stillborn, the storyline is about three women Awa, Faku and Li are traumatized in marriages because their husband is not their desired choice and are in search of freedom via education.

Despite these efforts, there have been arguments that women advocacy in the north has been lopsided. While several people argue that they have no meaningful outstanding plan for poor rural women and the means of curbing the menace of girls out of school, they are yet to provide proof on this.

While their action is commendable, there is a need to place more emphasis on education, reproductive health, constructive criticism of government’s actions. Northern feminists should align with Queen Amina ideals of self-actualization, determination, decisiveness, resilience and be inspired by her leadership role to keep the course flying.

Perhaps, to gain a better understanding of their fight, there should be a voracious understanding of the works of Buchi Emecheta, Flora Nwapa, and Abubakar Gimba’s Sacred Apple and Tedx speech of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie We Should Be Feminist.

Aligning with Queen Amina ideals will teach Northern women that their dreams and aspirations do not end in the other room.

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