Hausa Language Academic Website

Monday, 5 February 2018

Gender Conflicts in Hausa Proverbs



Dr.  Abdullahi Sarkin Gulbi

Department of Nigerian Languages,

Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto.




Folklore as a collection of beliefs, thoughts, customs, and traditions that people pass on from generation to generation which includes fairy tales, legends, myths, dances, games, proverbs, riddles, as well as superstitions etc. Despites the existing interest shown by scholars in the study of gender with particular reference to Hausa folklore, there is still the problem of differentiating gender and sex in the literary works of some scholars, more especially with regard to gender conflict. The paper therefore, intends to assess the existing gender conflicts which are found in Hausa proverbs. The paper will focuses its attention to both the inter and intra- gender conflicts that do exists in Hausa karin magana (proverbs).



1.0  Intro duction

The purpose of the paper was to identify the gender related conflicts that do exist in Hausa proverbs. The paper also attempts to discuss  how gender is constructed in Hausa proverbs, but before we go further into the details of the paper, it is pertinent to look at the definitions of some key words as itemized below:


2.0 What is Gender

Ostergaad (1992:6) defined gender in terms of relations of power. Gender relations are constructed in terms of power and dominance that structure the life chances of men and women. In other words, gender is defined as a set of characteristics that are associated with a certain biological sex(male and female). These characteristics are generally referred to as the masculine or feminine. Therefore, the formation of gender is something that has been highly controversial in many scientific fields. Specifically, researchers and theories take different perspectives on how much of gender is due to biological (nature) or is the result of culture and socialization(nurture).This is controversial because there are political implications for either side being right. If for example gender was proven to be completely biologically based, some people believed that this would be used to promote social inequalities. Kassam (1996) has pointed out that the word gender signifies differences in the biological make-up of human beings in general, in terms of the sex of the species as either  male, female or neuter. But to my believe and perception, gender (being masculine or feminine)encompasses a variety of domains which includes personality, gender role as well as self concept which is determined by biological and socio-cultural influence. Therefore the paper will look at the   gender conflict as  portrayed in  Hausa proverbs.

2.1 Conflict

This is the term which refers to the disagreement or clash between ideas, principles, or people. But in literature conflict means opposition between or among characters or forces in a literary works that shapes or motivates the action of a plot. Therefore, conflict is said to occur when one gender perceives the action of another gender as blocking the opportunity for the attainment of a certain goal or preference.


2.2 Gender conflict

This is based on the cultural beliefs various societies have established concerning the roles men and women play in those societies. Attitudes toward gender roles created conflict because those attitudes supported the notion that women were weak and men were strong. Men and women had to follow the expected and established mode of behavior.


2.3 What is proverb?

Proverbs are folk wisdoms, which form an essential part of the experience and the way of life of the people who produces them. But Knappert (1989:2) describes proverbs as “short expressions of wit containing the wisdom of past generations in condensed form, sometimes in rhythmic language, easy to remember and pleasing to hear[1].  The Hausa karin magana generally may be defined as a sentence or group of sentences, which Hausa  people agree,  is a karin magana as maintained by Skinner (1980:2). But specifically, karin magana is the use  of words, phrases  or even sentences to indicate something different from the literal meaning. So is Hausa karin magana. To support this argument we have to  look at the work of Gidley (1974:96) where he argued that Karin magana is the use of words to illustrate a certain action but completely unrelated to the literal meaning of the words.


2.4  Gender Conflict in the Proverbial Assessment

Proverbs are  the true expression of Hausa philosophy. Therefore, proverbs shade light on a number of aspects of life in general. They relate to the daily experiences of the people who use them in projecting their societal views. Bada (1995:147) observes that the Hausa people have an opposite karin magana for any situation, on any subject matter and in any place. That is why gender conflict is portrayed in Hausa karin magana, as will be discuss in this paper.


3.0 The Analysis

In this segment of the paper we are going to discuss gender related conflicts as portrayed in Hausa karin magana (proverbs). Relevant examples will be drawn from inter and intra- gender conflict as will be shown below.


3.1 Inter- gender

 This refers to the conflicts that occur between two people from different genders with different socio-cultural background. This type of conflicts   can occur in our day- to-day experience in life. That was why it is portrayed in the proverbs of Hausa. For example,

3.1.1 Women as shameless in the society.

  1. Abin da mace ta yi ta ji kunya , in namiji ya yi sai barin gari .

“An act that makes a woman to confess to shame would force a man to leave his town.”

This proverb goes on to show that women are the most shameless people in the society, when compare with their male counterpart. Therefore, men claims to be more responsible in term of ethical behavior than women.


 3.1.2 Women as weak in decision making.

  1. Bin shawarar mata ke sa da na sani.

“Taking women’s advice causes, oh had I known”.

Men in Hausa society uses this proverb to demonstrate the status of women and their weakness in making sound decisions. Therefore, women are considered to be unreliable in giving advice than men.

3.1.3  Women are also considered as talkative than men.

iii. Karfin mata sai yawan magana.  (Bada 1995:324)

“The strength of women is but a plentitude of talk.”

This proverb is telling us that women are talkative in all their dealings than their opposite sex. They have too much time to waste in talking and gossiping which sometimes resulted into conflict. A similar proverb which signifies the talkativeness of women can be seen as;

  1. iv. Ba fada da tsohuwa ba jinini.

“Fight with old woman and see complain”

In the above proverb, one may think to ask why not tsoho (old man)

3.1.4 Gender Bias

This refers to different treatment because of gender difference, or unfair differences in the treatment of men and women because of sex. For Example,

  1. ‘Ya mace ‘yar kashe gida.

“Female child is destroyer of a home.” (Asabe 2002:18)

In the above proverb, the female child is negatively portrayed as a destroyer of the household, meaning she will one day marry into another family, and indirectly deflating the economic growth of the family because of the huge financial expenditure involved in marrying off daughter in Hausa society. This is even the reason why in Hausa society male child is preferred to female child, because they live to uphold the family name in future. Therefore, women are view negatively in Hausa family setting .Consider also the adage below:

  1. Ba a yi komai ba mace ta haifi mace.

“Nothing good has been done, a woman has giving birth to a female child.”

This adage clearly shows the preference given to male child than a female child.

3.1.5 Women  as deceivers

Another inter gender conflict that is found in Hausa proverb is that women are considered as deceivers in the society. Example,

vii. Kissar mata gomiya tara da tara , guda daya cikon darin Iblis bai san ta ba.

“The deceits of women are 99, the one which completes the 100 even the devil knows it not.”

In this proverb  women are viewed by men as deceivers in the society, so men are considered to be more honest and straight forward than women, this is demonstrated in another proverb of Hausa as;

viii. Kurasa dangin shedan! In ba ku ba gida in kun yi yawa gida ya baci

“Kurasa, family of satan, if there is none of you there is no home, and if you are abound the home is spoilt.”

 3.1.6 Men as betrayers

In Hausa family setting, men are the leaders of their respective households. Men are the people to look for the girl to offer for marriage.  Usually, courtship begin between a boy and the girl before they allow their parents to come in, sometimes it can result to a successful marriage. But in a situation where a man ran away from the girl he proposed to marry, they viewed him as betrayer. That is why women uses this proverb against such men in the society as;

  1. Kowa ce namiji uba ne sai ya kwana maraya

“She who takes a husband for a father will die as an orphan.”

Women uses this proverb is testify that men are not trusted in the society.

Another proverb that is relevant to this situation is that which says;

Namiji Kanen ajali.

“Men are cause of death.”

The above proverb is telling us that sometimes men behave rude to women more especially in divorcing them unexpectedly. No matter the years they spent with them and number of children they have. This will separate a woman with her children. 


3.2 Intra- gender conflict

This is the type of conflict that occurred within the same gender. Many factors are responsible for the occurrence of these conflicts as portrayed in Hausa proverbs. Such factors include jealousy among people of the same gender, beauty, class difference, as well as wealth.

For example;

3.2.1  As co-wives

The polygamous nature of Hausa society gave room for Hausa men to marry more than one wife in their family setting. In this case, women hate the slightest mention of a co-wife; this is because every woman wants full control over the husband. Therefore, once a husband marries another wife into the family, the first wife sees the new wife as an enemy in the house. The new wife is force by the attitudes of the senior wife to fight back. One of the devices women use in provoking a co-wife is in the use of proverbs. These proverbs are damaging and seek to tarnish the image of the other. For example;

Kishi karin kumallon mata in ya motsa sai an haras

“Jealousy, women nausea once it is felt it must be vomited to get relief.”

Proverb goes on to explain to us that when the jealousies among co-wives are aroused they go mad and behave abnormally. Sometimes they get relieved when they use the proverbs against each other to settle their conflicts. The proverb considers co-wives as jealous and troublesome to each other.

Another example can be drawn from a popular Hausa proverb which says:

Batan kai shawara da Uwar kishiya.

“Insanity; seeking advice from a co-wife’s mother.”

Since the co-wife is considered as an enemy in the house to each other, then it is sound odd or insanity to seek the advice from the mother of her colleague in the house. Therefore any cordial relationship with her parents is frowned at, not to talk of seeking their advice.

4.0 Gender Role

This is a set of social behavioral norms that are generally considered appropriate for either a man or a woman in a social or interpersonal relationship. Attitudes toward gender roles created conflict because those attitudes supported the notion that women were weak and men were strong. Men and the women had to follow the expected and established modes of behavior in the society. The old belief held that men were born to lead while women were required to follow. Society raised boy to be aggressive while girls remained docile and nurturing. But the situation is greatly changing since women now hold high paying jobs; men are no longer the sole bread earners in the family. This shift seems to be harder for men because men find themselves in the new position of finding balance between work and home. But this was not the case as regard to Hausa proverbs.  There are a lot of conflicts which are portrayed in Hausa karin magana which displays the role of men and women in Hausa society. For Example;

Namiji zakara ba da }waya ka ci tsakuwa.

“Men are like a cock they give grains and eat stones.”

The above proverb is telling us that man in the Hausa family setting is the bread earner in his house. He is to cater for the sustenance of the entire family members such as food, clothes, morals as well as their welfare. This is even the reason why men claim to be superior to women in the society.

In contrary, women tend to prove that they are responsible for the ethical up bringing (behavior) of their children in the house than their fathers. This can be seen in the popular Hausa proverb as cited below;

Halin uwa diya kan ]auka.

“Like mother like daughter.”


5.0 Conclusion

The paper has attempted to discuss how gender conflict manifests itself in Hausa proverb. Hausa Proverbs as demonstrated in this paper serve as an important medium through which the images and perception of gender are portrayed. These portrayals depend on the Hausa worldview on men and women and their expected roles in the society.  Men in Hausa society viewed women as talkative, shameless, deceivers and destroyers of the household. Women themselves viewed men as betrayals in the society. The paper also highlighted the role of proverb through which women provoke their angers to their co-wives which resulted to intra-gender conflict among them.







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[1] For more information on the definition of proverb we should look at the works of: Bland (1914:1:xi), da Whitting(1932:291), da Bargery(1933:569), da Oxford English Dictionary Vol.iii (1933:1520), da Furniss(1960:70), da  Krappe(1964:143) , da Plopper(1969:2), da Nwago (1970:201), da  Kelson(1971:415), da Gidley (1974:96), da Yunusa (1977:3), da Skinner (1980:2-3), da Dangambo(1984:38), da Knappert(1989:2), da Koko(1989),da Bagaye(1992:32),da Bada(1995:47), da Kamusun Hausa (2006:309),da Danyaya(2007:1), and Nahuce (2008:32)

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