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Hausa-Fulani women's movement and womanhood

Afolayan, G.E. (2019) Hausa-Fulani women's movement and womanhood. Agenda, 33 (2). pp. 52-60.

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Since the early 1980s feminists have been making concerted efforts to theorise ‘feminine’ and its primacy, the exercise and characterisation of which have been continually developing. The task became important to early feminists because they felt that traditional constructions of the feminine needed to be dismantled and reconfigured. Defining the Hausa-Fulani woman – what she was, what she is, and what she will become – was central to activist ideologies. In addition, the debates on the ‘feminine’ were crucial in the struggle against patriarchy and some locally inspired Islamic doctrines for women in northern Nigeria. Representations of the feminine were used as strategies for socio-cultural, economic and political changes. In the same vein, women activists in Nigeria, as elsewhere in Africa and the rest of the world, were also engaged in criticising traditional constructions of the feminine for the purposes of altering stereotypical sex roles. In this way, representations of the Hausa-Fulani woman were imperative in the overall plan to re-educate the populace in an attempt to give symbolic prestige to its women vis-à-vis its men. All these efforts have been significant to the agendas and ideologies of the women’s movement for almost four decades. This ‘perspective’ explores how women’s organisations imagined and reconfigured the Hausa-Fulani woman in their campaign to improve women’s status in the cultural, economic and political contexts.

This paper illuminates how women’s organisations attempt to advocate for Hausa-Fulani women in order to domesticate the Minimum Age of Marriage Clause of the Nigerian Child Rights Act (CRA) of 2003 in a context where plural legal systems and entrenched cultural norms complicate attempts to redress gender inequalities. In the late 1970s and early 1980s women’s groups were organised and spread across many regions in the world, sharing certain broad commonalities around different issues – human rights, economic survival and feminism. These issues became part of the socio-political agendas of these periods, as women’s groups made frantic efforts to recast the content as well as the form of socio-economic and political life. In Nigeria, both feminist scholars and women’s groups often debate among themselves and with each other on what feminism is, whether women’s movements exist in Hausa-Fulani land, and if so, whether women’s organisations have been successful in their engagement to mobilise people to redress gender inequality. These are the central questions addressed in this paper.

I begin by providing a brief exploration of the scholarly literature on women’s movements. This lays the groundwork for discourses on feminism in the Hausa-Fulani context and Hausa-Fulani womanhood, before examining the Minimum Age of Marriage Clause in CRA 2003 and the activism agenda of the concerned women’s organisations. I conclude by suggesting that the women’s movement should be understood as a product of local and national influences rather than global influences.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Routledge as part of Taylor & Francis
Copyright: © 2019 Afolayan Gbenga Emmanu
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