The History of Women's Writing

Cite this article as: Umar, A.D. & Musa, B.Y.M. (2023). The History of Women's Writing. Tasambo Journal of Language, Literature, and Culture, (2)1, 40-53. www.doi.org/10.36349/tjllc.2023.v02i01.006.

Abdullahi Dahiru Umar
Department of English and LiteratureFederal University, Gusau, Zamfara, Nigeria


Baba Musa YM
General Studies DepartmentFederal Polytechnic Bauchi, Nigeria


The concept feminism encompasses to an intense awareness of  faminine identity  and concerns,which has become a significant theme in literature since its rise  and development.Despite its controversial nature, this essay offers a comprehensive understanding of  feminist literature, including various types such as liberal feminism, radical feminism, Marxist feminism, socialist feminism, cultural feminism, black/African feminism, womanism, African womanism and satanism, and mothers. Women writres have contributed aesthetically and intellectually to the progress and development of society, rejecting the notion of inferiority and highlighting their capabilities. The struggle for equal treatment and identity is a recurring theme in feminist literature. The developing force of the women's liberation movement led to an evaluation of texts from a new perspective, shifting interest to women characters and theorists. In Nigeria, particularly the Northern  part, women are traditionally restricted from voicing their opinions, and their decisions are made by male-dominating figures. This paper trace the origin of women's writing worldwide, in Africa and Nigeria; using the theoretical frameworks and text analysis  to derive data and suggestions on how women writers can improve their literary status in Nigeria, especially the Northern Nigeria.

Keywords: Chauvinism, Patriarchy, purdah, feminism, identity, status, restriction, women


The term of "feminism" refers to heightened awareness of female identity and a desire to address women’s issues. Literature has often explored the theme of independence and freedom the since the rise of feminism. However, understanding feminism across different cultures, periods, and regions can be difficult. The term still evokes controversy and elicit a strong reaction from people both within and outside of academia.

The term “feminism” has its roots in the Latin word "Femina," which means woman. Feminism aims to promote gender equality and advocates for women’s rights by challenging and eliminating discriminatory restrictions. Despite progress in recent years, societal and cultural attitudes still perpetuate negative stereotypes and prejudices against women, with instances of open misogyny persisting. in many instances. These stereotypes have historically depicted women as inferior, with limited intellectual capabilities and restricted nurturing roles

Women's struggle against social and historical prejudice gave rise to the feminist movement in the late 1960s and 1970s. Feminist discourse often focuses on gender and the place of women in society and culture. It aims to challenge the male-centred norm that has traditionally defined women as the "other." The goal is not to have a singular vision but rather multiple approaches that better suit the complex nature of feminine issues.

Feminist critics and scholars aim to analyse and deconstruct the language used by men and establish a female-centric framework. They recognize that traditional literature often reinforces gender inequality and the oppression of women. Feminist perspectives emphasize the importance of understanding women's oppression in different contexts, including classs, race, and sexual orientation, and working to eliminate it.

Theoretical framework

The diverse schools of feminist thought, such as liberal, Marxist, psychoanalytic, socialist, radical, existentialist, and postmodern, provide varied viewpoints on women's liberation. Each perspective is partial, offering a provisional answer to the challenge of emancipation for women. Feminism is a global and revolutionary ideology that seeks to unite women, sharing common visions and working in close collaboration as partners in action. It recognizes the need to fight for women’s rights on different fronts and challenges the patriarchal structures that continue to perpetuate gender inequality.

In India, feminism poses unique challenges and has been a tool for the intellectual discourse and political action of women. Indian society is highly hierarchical, and women fight for equal pay and reproductive rights. Similarly, in sub-Saharan Africa, feminism has been a distant tool for most women scholars and activists. African feminism accommodates man, acknowledging the value of motherhood, while Western feminism negates it.

Feminism is a powerful force that continues to bring new awareness, power, knowledge, and empowerment to women. It plays a significant role in contemporary discourse on women's history, present and future. The movement’s vitality lies in its refusal to remain static, constantly evolving to meet the needs of women in diverse contexts. As a result, feminism has become a liberating force for women around the world.

Evolution and development of women's writing

The majority of women did not have access to school or time to devote to writing until the eighteenth century. The artist has traditionally been seen as a male figure. It became more feasible for women to write as societies industrialized and women gained access to education; as printing technologies were employed to mass-produce books at lower costs; and as literacy rates rose. After that period, several prominent female authors in the literary fields of poetry and theatre rose to prominence in the literary canons of England, France, and the United States.

Women authors existed in pre-modern cultures, although they were few. Sappho (sixth century BCE) and her followers were much lauded in ancient Greece. During the reign of Emperor Augustus, one of the few Roman woman writers, Sulpicia, contributed to the literary canon. Gofukakusa in Nijo, who authored The Confessions of Lady Nijo, was one of many female court poets and diarists in fourteenth-century Japan. Hrosvitha, (935-1032), a German nun, createdplays in Latin.

Marie de France, was among the first women poets in France and started this trend in the 12th and 13th centuries. Women writers continued to play an essential role in the courtly debates of the arts in France. In the fourteenth century Christine Pisan, the widow of a court secretary, became the first woman to earn living as a writer. She wrote numerous works of lyric poetry, and most well-known work, The Book of the City of Ladies, details the accomplishments of women throughout history.

During this period, noble Italian women of the period often composed religious poetry. Two significant works written around the same time in England were Julian of Norwich's Revelations of Divine Love and the memoirs of religious mystic Mergery Kempe.

Even though many of them were published anonymously, the new literary form of the novel was developed by notable women authors at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Marie-Madeleine Pioche de la Vergne, Comtesse de la Fayette, (1634-1693) of France penned the first historical records. In 1678, she released her novel, La Princesse de Cleves. In the seventeenth century, women writers like Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea, (1661-1720) and Aphra Behn, (1640-1689) emerged in England. Behn is best known for her novels Oroonoko, (1688) and The Rover, (1677). Anne Bradstreet, (1612–1672) was a poet who lived in the American colonies.

English author Mary Wollstonecraft, (1759-1797) helped bring up the issue of women's rights in public discourse with her prose book A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, (1792). The first quarter of the nineteenth century saw the emergence of female novelists like Fannie Burney, (1752–1820) and Jane Austen, (1775–1817). Austen used a pen name when she released her books. She painted a picture of middle-class life in England but also satirized self-deception, vanity, and false humility by analyzing the social behaviour and psychology of English middle-class individuals and writing about their faults, follies, and virtues. Her popular and critically acclaimed novel, Pride and Prejudice (1813), explored the dangers of judging a book by its cover and the tension between outward appearances and the truth.

Like Austen, the Brontes sisters penned novels in the privacy of their own homes before having them published anonymously. The strength and fragility of single women are on display in Jane Eyre, the narrative of an orphaned girl who works as a governess and finally marries her mysterious employer. Wuthering Heights is another work that explores the human capacity for emotion and the inherent tension between our wild and civilized selves. One of their contemporaries, George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans, 1819-1880), was a prominent novelist whose work centred on modest characters and the ebb and flow of history, and whose influence can be seen in the works of many later women writers. Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861), for example, became an influential poet thanks to her collections of love poetry, Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850) and Aurora Leigh (1856), and her long poem in blank verse, which reflects on the rights and virtues of women artists. During her lifetime, American poet Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) only had eleven of her poems published. Her poetry was straightforward yet profound and humorous in its examinations of themes like love, death, war, and the value of art.

By the end of the nineteenth century, women authors had begun to emerge as legitimate artists in their own right, and they were eventually accorded equal status with men's writers as influential, ground-breaking thinkers and doers in their fields. Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935) was an American author who made significant contributions to the short story genre, explored the issues of gender relations, and advocated for greater political rights for women. French author Colette (1873-1954) created nuanced depictions of the challenges of love in works like 1945's Gigi as well as novels on the experiences of a defiant adolescent (Claudine Goes to School).

Women writers now had a chance to create their unique poetic voices thanks to the avant-garde experimentation of the modernist era. Modernist writers scribed a new way of perceiving the world in the language of the senses through the use of vivid imagery and personal viewpoints. Novelist Virginia Wool, (1882-1941) created works that went beyond merely describing persons and situations. Both To the Lighthouse (1927) and Mrs Dalloway (1925) depict the protagonists' lives as they adapt to the shifting social mores of their respective eras.

Gertrude Stein (1874-1966) was a novelist and playwright known for her experimental style, which she employed to communicate the feeling of experience and its changes over time through the use of repetition, fragmented language, and strange word choices. Her masterpiece, Three Lives (1909), is a spoken depiction of three ladies painted in great detail. As literary cultures grew to incorporate women as active artists and literary theorists, modernism paved the way for women poets to rise to prominence.

Women writers continued to gain recognition and acceptance in the literary canon during the 20th century. Authors like Irish novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch (1919-2000) and satirical novelist Muriel Spark (1918-2006) rose to prominence in the middle of the 20th century. Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986), a French philosophy student, analyzed the position of women in society in her book The Second Sex (1949). On the other hand, French avant-garde novelists Nathalie Sarraute (1900-1999) and Marguerite Duras (1914-1996) were instrumental in developing and popularizing the nouveau roman, which eschewed realistic narrative and character development in favour of impression and the natural progression of events.

A new generation of women writers was encouraged to get involved in politics and pay more attention to the writings of women of colour as part of the second wave of the women's movement in the 1960s and 1970s. Poets like Adrienne Rich (born in 1929), Audre Lorde (born in 1934), and Judy Grahn, (born in 1940) captured the tempo of the feminist movement by combining cultural analysis with lyrical language. Margaret Atwood (born 1939) of Canada pondered issues in impersonal societies, whereas Bharati Mukherjee (born 1940) and Anita Desai (born 1937) of postcolonial countries like Africa and India wrote about the challenges faced by Eastern immigrants in the West.

Novels written by modern women authorsrange from the experimental and high-art to the commercially successful and novels were written by women have their distinct style that reflects a more feminine sensibility. They all have their unique characteristics. Each of them brings her unique perspective, outlook, and life experiences to the table when portraying a role. They agree on one thing. They have a remarkable knowledge of how society is evolving.

The emergence of women's writing in Africa

According to Obiama Nmaemeka, in African oral traditions, women were not highly visible only as performers but also as producers of knowledge, particularly regards to the educational and moral significance oral literature. Researchers in the field of African oral tradition have recorded the active involvement of women in the preservation and transmission of oral literature. Nmaemeka notes that women played a significant role not only in panegyric poetry but also in elegiac poetry. Ruth Finnegan further highlights the crucial role played by women in oral traditions, where they were often the main custodians of knowledge and cultural practices.

Every Akan woman is expected to have some competence in the dirge, and though some singers are considered more accomplished than others, nevertheless every woman mourner at a funeral is expected to sing – or run the risk of strong criticism, possibly even suspicion of complicity in death.

This suggests the vital importance of oral performance and female participation as a compulsory ritual in those recitals. Finnegan contends that in some parts of Africa, prose narratives, which are not directly connected to life cycles, are also dominated by women: "In some areas, it is the women, often the old women, who tend to be most gifted, even when the stories themselves are universally known."

For both Carole and Boyce Davies and Elaine Savory, the existence of active and powerful women in African oral tradition has been a vital source of inspiration for African women. Nmaemeka proposes that “Studies of the content and form of African oral tradition reveal the centrality of women as subjects.” She discusses the Gikuyu creation myth, which identified women as bold founders and forgers of dynasties, and Aoua Keita, a Bamana-born woman who led a resistance movement for the independence of French Equatorial Africa. As Deirdre Lapin notes, in Aoua Keita’s autobiography, Femme d’Afrique, Keita attributes her moral strength and forcefulness to the lessons she learned from the activities of women in oral tradition. Nmaemeka explores how African women writers have repeatedly acknowledged their gratitude to mothers who were great and resourceful storytellers. For example, Grace Ogot, a Kenyan writer whose first novel The Promised Land (1966) was published in the same year as Flora Nwapa’s Efuru, claims that she was influenced by her grandmother. “My interest in writing fiction may have started at a very early age, stimulated by my childhood keenness to listen to my grandmother’s folk tales. She was a renowned storyteller.”

Women in a typical African society are placed second to men. The conception held from the creation story, since the first man rib, she is considered to be subordinate to the first man. African society feels that a woman's problem cannot be solved without the help of a man. An African woman without a husband is looked down upon and has no protection from any in dignity. The psychological belief women are second to men has made women deprived of the equal political post with men in society.

As Sani Baat’s – Throwing voice

If we don’t tell our stories, hailstones will continue to fall on our heads,

Thrown my father for the children to see –for we are not good women,

Thrown by imams, by a judge’s decree – for we are not good wives,

Thrown by other women in our husbands’ lives

As they come in the morning cradling his children

Calling us witch, barren, bitch

And we find something to tie the chest with;

Challenging words to hurl back in battle,

And partners to hold us anyway,

Through the things, we struggle against.

The contribution of women to the progress of society cannot be put aside. This range from economic growth like marketing, weaving, manufactured products and also household affairs. Society however did not pay keen attention to the great contribution of women to the growth of society and this has gone a long way to dampen their morals and make their effort fruitless.

African men started writing novels ahead of the women writers, the men writers believed that women are objects of pleasure to be used by men at their will and slaves to men having a major role in giving birth to children and food being ready for their husbands.

Women writers have started to emerge powerfully and more visibly because they use creative writing to lunch themselves on the continental global scenes. In Africa the oppression of women has progressed along the pattern of different historical experiences the issue of exploitation of women attracted the attention of so many women writers.

Women in Africa have been at the forefront of the struggle for rights, opportunities, and recognition, joining women in other nations in their quest for equality. Throughout history, women in various fields have stood up against discrimination and barriers to success. In Africa, a generation of female writers including Buchi Emecheta, Stella Oyedepo, Flora Nwapa, Mariama Ba, Efua Sutherland, Zaynab Alkali, Ifeoma Okoye, Mable Segun, Adaorah Lily – Viasi, Remi Adedeji, Folashayo Ogunrinde, Halen Ovbiagele, have used their literary prowess to contribute to the fight against gender inequality and male dominance.

According to Stratton, Eustace Palmer’s An Introduction to the African Novel (1972) refers only once to a woman writer, labelling Flora Nwapa as "an inferior novelist" Stratton further highlights that women are also absent from Palmer's second book, The Growth of the African Novel (1979), and Gerald Moore’s Twelve African Writers (1980). Stratton contends that Palmer and other male critics are using Western or male-dominated canon as a standard for African literature, and completely discounting the fact that their canon excludes women writers. In his introduction to Twelve African Writers, Gerald Moore expresses regret, that due to the limited space in his study, he cannot accommodate "such new writers as Nuruddin Farah, Ebrahim Hussein, Kole Omotoso, and Femi Osofisan. Stratton indicates that according to this list of male writers, it is worth noticing that by late 1970 numerous women writers could no longer be described as "new", such as Bessie Head and Flora Nwapa, both of whom had three novels and a collection of short stories to their credit.

Ama Ata Aidoo also canvassed the ongoing problems faced by African woman writers at the Second African Writers' Conference, held in Stockholm in 1986. In her paper, entitled "To be an African Woman Writer – An Overview and a Detail", she deplores exclusionary practices and the lack of serious attention from both African and non-African male critics:

In March of 1985, Professor Dieter Riemenschneider came to Harare to give a lecture on some regional approaches to African literature. The lecture lasted at least two hours. In all the time, Professor Dieter Riemenschneider did not find it possible to mention a single African woman writer. When this was pointed out to him later, he said he was sorry, but it had been 'so natural.' I could have died. It had been natural to forget that quite a bit of modern African literature was produced by women. Why should it be ‘natural’ to forget that some African women had been writing and publishing for as long as some African men writers?

Since the 1970s, interest in African literature has grown considerably in English and comparative literature. African writings increasingly appear on multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural reading lists, exposing both high school and undergraduate students to such Anglophone and Francophone writers as Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, and Ferdinand Oyono. However, there has been a notable absence a female point of view in this literary movement. In works of fiction, women characters were nearly always secondary to the major male protagonists. Some works, such as Elechi Amadi's novel, The Concubine, went so far as to openly disdain women. Critics and public commentators focused solely on male writers and examined the roles of women primarily from a male perspective. It was not until 1958, when Flora Nwapa published Efuru, the first African novel by a woman in English, that a female voice in African literature began to emerge. Even then, she was dismissed as just another woman writing about women’s issues.

African women writers have struggled to gain literary attention and also admission to the literary canon. According to Chikwenye Ogunyemi, the 1986 and 1988 awards of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Wale Soyinka of Nigeria and Naguib Mahfouz of Egypt have bought international acclaim to African literature, which has increased pressure for meaningful dialogue along gender lines. Juliana Makuchi Nfah-Abbenyi argued that the increase in scholarly inquiries on, by, and about women in the mid-1980s was another important factor in changing the status of African women writers. In university curricula, the writings of African women are still controlled and dominated by well-established and important African male writers, such as Achebe, Ngugi, and Ousmane Sembene. However, as Nfah-Abbenyi has commented, this situation is gradually changing, as many scholars of African literature in the West are now including African women writers in their courses. This change, according to Nfah-Abbenyi had also affected many African universities, where curricula have traditionally been “Eurocentric and /or African male-oriented.”

In Charlotte Bruner's critical opinion, African women writers are practicing their craft under challenging circumstances. In her preface to Unwinding Threads: Writing by Women in Africa (1983), she notes that:

The African woman writing fiction today has to be somehow exceptional. Despite vast differences in traditions and beliefs among African societies, any female writer must have defied prevailing tradition if she speaks out as an individual and as a woman. To reach an international audience directly, she often has had to cross linguistic barriers. She may well have confronted the dictates of societies in which the perpetuation of a tradition submerges the contribution of the innovator, in which the subservience of the individual to the community is reinforced by group sanctions. In such societies, the accepted role of any artist is to commemorate custom, in words, in song and in the selection of the details that validate the accepted ethics of that society. Generally, then, the perpetrator is preferred to the creator. To be outstanding is to court rejection.

The literary work of African female writers demonstrates that they are perpetrators but rather creators. Their work strives to create a more egalitarian culture and challenges the narrow-minded and patriarchal ethics of their respective societies. Despite being under scrutinized by readers and academic scholars, African women novelists' writings are numerous, inventively electric and insightful; they have emerged over the last forty years as in the work of authors such as Mariama Ba, Buchi Emecheta, Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, Tsitsi Dangarembga and Laila Aboulela.

The work of African women writers does not necessarily contradict Western feminist theories. Rather, these writers emphasize the unique issues faced by African women and their efforts towards emancipation and empowerment writers within their particular cultural contexts. Their writings also provide critiques of the roles played by older women, such as mothers-in-law, and younger women, such as sisters-in-law and co-wives. However, when by speaking on behalf of other African women, these writers do not claim to own or appropriate their experiences. Instead, they offer perspectives based on specific analysis of power relations and discursive effects, as described by Linda Alcoff.

African women writers impugn patriarchal/nationalist values and also Western misreading/misunderstanding of their cultural practices. Therefore, their work and their characters are struggling against patriarchal values at home and persistent Eurocentrism abroad. Against this submission, their characters are negotiating identities which are neither essentialist nor unified but rather multiple, African women's negotiations of motherhood, feminism, marriage and religion need to be gauged within their own cultural and material realities; otherwise, there is a danger of producing misinterpretations.

Women’s writing in Nigeria

 Nigeria has the largest population of any African country, and it is known for its diversity in terms of race, religion, and socioeconomic status. Women accounted for around 49% of the total population in 2011, according to estimates from the national population commission. Nigeria is home to About 250 distinct ethnic groups and approximately 400 different native languages.

Women in Nigeria have faced adverse history of encountering and overcoming a range of obstacles. Patriarchal, chauvinistic, and anarchic societies have eroded women’s rights, leading to their exploitation and marginalization in both public and private sectors of development work. Since the pre-colonial era, Nigerian women have been a vital part of the country's progress. To comprehend the struggles and efforts at intervention by women throughout Nigeria's history, an understanding of the feminist movement in the country is necessary.

Before colonization, Nigerian women held prominent roles in both the domestic and public arenas and enjoyed financial independence. Northern women, especially those of the Hausa-Fulani ethnic group, wore the Islamic veil and had a significant impact on the country's religious and political climate. Several influential women spoke up for what they believed in, giving rise to their feminist movement. Queen Amina of Zaria was a notable example in the year 1576. She rose to power in the northern Nigerian city of Zazzau, a Hausa stronghold. Within months of being monarch, she had already commanded successful military expeditions and built an empire to be proud of. Amina annexed the Nupe and Kwararafa states, effectively controlling the entire region between Zazzau and the Niger and Benue rivers. It is believed that Ebele Jennies, a woman, established the Igala kingdom in northern Nigeria.

The Oba of ancient and new Oyo in southern Nigeria had a highly centralized and intricate palace government known as the Alafin. There were many different classes and levels of Ayaba among the king's wives. In southern communities, sex roles were more clearly defined. As a result, many groups led by women emerged as powerful forces. The women of the Igbo and Ibibio communities ran their businesses and passed political power down through the ranks through a system of mutual support. As a whole, the Ijaw, Kalabari, Efik, Edo, and Itsekri lacked a strong network of influential women. Power was collectively wielded by women of great standing, either through the institution of the queen's mother (Benin) or through personal ties with the male rulers. High-status women have always been placed above the 'ordinary' in countries where social rank is stratified.

Women's organizations and representatives like the Yoruba 'Iyalode' wielded political power in Yoruba and Igbo communities, and not just in the hands of single women of great status. Yoruba conflicts, such as the well-known Kiriji war, required exceptional efforts from both sexes. Like the Egba and the Ibadan Iyalodes, where women rose to the challenge, they were rewarded with more political responsibility. Women in pre-colonial Africa served as equals to males rather than as subordinates. Because of the widespread practice of segregating the sexes, women were frequently allowed to exercise autonomy in decision-making.

During colonial times,Feminist movements emerged among the Yoruba and Igbo women in southern Nigeria, who held prominent political positions within gendered hierarchies. Women formed groups based on common interests, age, and family ties, such as the Market Women's Coalition, which helped them unite to achieve change. Colonial norms had instituted norms and laws facilitated women’s fully participation in society, the economy, and politics.

Although women won the right to vote in the South in the 1950s and in the North in the 1980s, they still faced underrepresentation in politics. In 1929, Igbo market women led a revolt against British taxes, known as the Women's War, which demonstrated how women could use their traditional power to challenge colonial authorities. In 1948, women in the Abeokuta market staged a protest against colonial taxes, and with the lack of resistance from traditional rulers, they overthrew the government. The Alake of Abeokuta was ultimately responsible for tax collection during indirect control. Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, then-headmistress of Abeokuta Grammar School, heard about the plight of these women and responded by establishing the Abeokuta Women's Union (AWO). Through this union, the 'elite' women of Abeokuta stood in solidarity with the market women of Egba Land to put an end to the unfair taxation they were subjected to. These women threatened the authorities with a variety of cultural practices to effect change.

The National Women's Organization was the first women's organization in Nigeria to have nationwide representation across all ethnic, religious, and class lines, and its founding in 1947 laid the groundwork for anti-colonial resistance struggles as well as emancipation, equality, and empowerment for women. Margret Ekpo and Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, to name just two, played significant roles in both mainstream political movements and independent female organizations in Nigeria, carving out a space for women in politics. Leading lights for women's rights, strong women like GamboSawaba played crucial roles in the movement. She was a leader in the fight for Nigeria's independence from Britain alongside Margret Nepos, FunmilayoRansomeKuti, and other prominent political figures like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, and Malam Aminu Kano.

Many rallies have been staged by women's groups in postcolonial Nigeria, but they have been confined to large cities like Lagos. Women's groups throughout this period have proliferated and become increasingly specialized. Women's issues have become the focal points of many organizations' efforts. Some misinterpretations of Islamic law in the North have led to violations of women's rights, such as those related to sexual and reproductive freedom, rape, the environment, domestic abuse, political exclusion, child marriage, and early marriage. They have successfully garnered national and worldwide attention to the issue of violence against women. Nigerian women's attendance at the 1995 Beijing conference gave them a political platform, although they have not yet achieved parity with males. Injustices against women, whether cultural or religious, persist despite the existence of legislation intended to protect and advance their rights.

Novels written from a female perspective first appeared with the rise of Nigeria's female writers. The Last of the Strong Ones, House of Symbols, and Children of the Eagle are AkachiAdimora-Ezeigbos's bestselling trilogy. Modern Yoruba literature presents a wide range of female protagonists that are multidimensional and multicoloured. However, Akinola's (1984) Fila Iobinrin portrayed how vulnerable women are to the tricks and lies males use to court them. Women's weak and muddled decision-making on the topic of marriage was brought into stark relief; most women look back on their unions with regret. As a result, these shortcomings have largely contributed to an ever-increasing rate of divorce and single parenthood, both of which are devastating to a child's healthy growth and the quality of their care at home. The anticipated merger has been cited as a further challenge.

Owolabi's (2001) Igba Oro is an unmatched revelation and a remarkably clear picture of the modern polygamous home in Africa, especially in the Yoruba-speaking regions of Nigeria's southwest and south-southeast. The protagonist in Olagbemi's novel Eru O Boda from 1988 is a man named Bayo who uses money to get women into having sexual relationships with him. The work was a shocking expose of widespread immorality throughout all demographics of society, from young adults to the elderly.

Feminism represents society's culture and calls for the demeaning appreciation of women within the married circle, especially among the wealthy, the powerful, and the elite. The novels show that men are the ones who oppress women in reality. The rejection of women's basic human rights is widely accepted as part of the cultural norm. The author ignored the present by failing to acknowledge or even mention the present. All over the African continent, women hold positions of trust and responsibility at the same rate as males. When there is money and material prosperity, the female characters in a story are more likely to have affairs with male characters. Women in our culture can be both envious and noble. Women are the ones that bring people together and construct both homes and communities. Men's lives are incomplete without women.

The battle between the sexes has been on the rise since Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Women was first published in 1796. This phenomenon is also present in Nigeria's north. The agonizing question is who first started caring about determining its agenda and when. It did not begin in the 19th century in West Africa or with Nana Asma'u, daughter of the great religious reformer Usman Bn Fodio. Since literary resources of that sort were not fashionable for the daughters of an Islamic scholar, and a reformer, she did not share the information with her older, more mature sister, Hadiza (b. 1782). As colonialism and Western civilization spread into western Sudan and sections of Hausa country, so did Western-style gender issues and A Vindication of the Rights of Women. Because of the 'multiple allegiances' or 'multiple perils, religious and environmental,' that they face, women writers in Northern Nigeria are digging their graves, burying their own dead, and then writing with bitter, angry, disruptive detachment about their existence beyond death.

The realization of Zaynab Alkali's message—the emancipation of women via the medium of literature—marks the end of a transitional period in which education plays a crucial role. The female protagonists in Alkali tell their own stories. This is the subgenre of Alkali that emphasizes the transformation of a persona from youth to adulthood, highlighting the formative experiences that occur along the way. The works of Alkali have been hailed as a monumental literary effort that investigates the myth of the nameless, faceless, modern concubine in northern Nigeria among Muslims.

When a woman's life seems to be coming apart in a predominantly male-oriented society, Alkali's focus is on the value of education as a support and nourishment. In Zaynab's writings, women gain independence as a byproduct of their quest for knowledge. All of Alkali's characters go through difficult experiences, but they all come out the other side with a solid understanding of who they are and the will to make their ambitions a reality. Education is the key to her heroines' liberation and empowerment, and tradition and culture play a significant role in determining their fates.

Alkali mentions Chinua Achebe, Ngugi Wa Thiong O, Catherine Cookson, Ernest Hemingway, and Flora Nwapa as inspirations in an interview. According to Alkali, feminism is not founded on the principle of strict gender equality and often takes an anti-male posture. Many African authors, including Alkali, challenge social norms and historical inequalities in their literature, and their feminism echoes this heritage.

Some northern Nigerian women writers bury their core themes in this cultural and historical sand. Is it true, though, that they already have opinions about religion and culture before they start writing? Even if that's the case, the question of whether or not there are significant differences between, say, Islamic, Christian, or animist authors remains. Hymns and Hymens give us a glimpse into Victoria Sylva Kankara's (official) poetry debut. Although "the poet took her time to explore the theme of love in a way that is capable of healing many broken hearts," the title suggests Christian themes. When it came to writing about the trials and tribulations of being a woman, she performed as good a job as anyone has ever done. The writer's expressive language evoked a wide range of emotions, including love, amazement, sadness, exhilaration, hopelessness, uncertainty, and so on. Listen up!

Why am I called a woman when all that lies around me are shame and disgrace …

Is it for nothing that I am made a woman so unable to rebuild and fortify that which once stood for dignity, prestige and integrity …

… Anointing is upon me

To raise that which is utterly cast down

Such tremendous aspersions and outrage are uncommon in the work of northern Nigerian women writers, particularly in the core north, where every word or comment that comes out of the pen of writers, particularly women, is scrutinized. One is not attempting to claim that the North of Nigeria is a controlled society, but submission to culture and religion is instilled in the minds of the writers as well as the community by an unwritten code or an unseen hand of self-censorship.

Rizinat Muhammed is one of the writers who deal with culturally forbidden subjects such as love. With the publication of her book No Love Like a Woman in 2006, and the screaming headline from an interview she offered one of the southern publications, 'Shari'a can't stop me from writing love stories,' things began to change, particularly for women writers from the core North. Despite touching on the fabric of tradition and religion, purdah, women's education, and servitude, her concern is not the system's feelings or what the authorities can do, but the writer's sensibility in a watched society. This is where the issue of self-censorship emerges. In her interview, she stated, "Simple decency dictates that obscene words should not be spoken in such a raw manner." However, as writers, we have the freedom to use alternative words to imply the same thing without being disrespectful to the general public. Nigeria is a traditional society, whether we like it or not. Nothing, however, can keep me from writing about love. We can't pretend it's not there.'

Furthermore, the majority of female Hausa writers concentrated their force on recreating their lives, customs, and a touch of the fantastic. Beginning with the Hausa society of the 1980s, we discover a group that may be described as knowledgeable and educationally endowed in this decade. The U.P.E., a program meant to accommodate the early transformation of Nigeria's first layer of education, was around six years old. The emphasis was on enrollment, retention, and the provision of literary material for the then-burgeoning school system.

So Aljannar Duniya by Hafsat Abdulwaheed emerged from a competition aimed at creating materials for new elementary and secondary school admissions. Her main focus was not romance per se, but the way society was constituted and its inherent flaws, particularly in the case of interethnic marriages. In So Aljannar Duniya (Love the Paradise of the Earth), Hafsat tackled this touchy subject with a romantic escapade between a Fulani girl and a Syrian. When considering how Muslims prefer to be close to Arabs, one could wonder why a Syrian is shunned by a Fulani ethnic community. It happened to the author's sister, who was compelled by the circumstances of the time to marry a Syrian, and we can state, as usual, that the work was not a commentary but an attempt to recreate an occurrence based on actual life as witnessed. Not only that, but the author took us through the dynamic forces that vibrated and transformed the Fulani cultural makeup. Badado, the young Fulani girl, is not afraid to express her feelings to her parents over her boyfriend's rejection of the Pulaaku culture. Pulaaku, a major feature of Fulani culture, is not simply attained by speaking a Fulani dialect; parents and clan elders both teach it to their offspring.

Hear Badado talking to her aunt.

Aure! Inna ni fan a gaya muku b azan auri kowa ba zai auri kowa ba sai wanda nake so, kun san zamani ya canza.

Marriage! No Aunty, I am not going to marry anybody but my heart's desire, are you not aware that time has changed?

Changes brought about by modernization, education, and the inflow of foreign cultures inspired this type of disobedience from a Fulani girl.

Balaraba Ramat, on the other hand, is always conscious of her role as a writer and what she hopes a piece would accomplish or change. BudurwaZuciya (The Young at Heart), her first work, delves into the contentious issues of men marrying many wives, especially young delectable girls after sending away the older ones in the house, and continues through her other works like Wa Zai AuriJahila? (Who will marry an ignoramus?) AndIna son sa haka (I like him all the same). As much as I would like to agree with Whittsit (1996), who interpreted her works as those of a 'Hausa feminist,' and Adamu (2003), who tilts towards 'womanist expression,' through the eyes of a twelve-year-old, Zainab in Wa zai auriJahila is a 'Hausa feminist.' Zainab is forced to marry a man older than her father; she flees to an aunt in the city and continues her education, eventually becoming a nurse.

While in Ina son sa haka, the heroine, Fatima, was born to a Niger Republic-born mother and a Kano-based businessman, AlhajiHaruna, Safiyya was living with an aunt, a commercial sex worker, and before her marriage. AlhajiHaruna had three other wives and up to 24 children before bringing in Safiyya. Fatima, at the age of 18, is without a consistent boyfriend; her younger siblings have already married and have children of their own. She is considered 'unmarriageable' by the age of 21. This is abhorrent to her father, as well as the co-wives and society in general.

The 1990s brought with them new perspectives and new beginnings in Northern Nigeria. Writers can now collaborate on remarks, brainstorm on thematic issues, and investigate ways to make their writings more acceptable and complex. Bilkisu Ahmed Funtua is the most prolific writer during this period who follows in the footsteps of Balaraba but with a degree of fatalism (rather than resistance) and sophisticated investigation of sexism. Bilkisu attempts to personify the African feminist notion of multiple allegiances in most of her works, as she deftly balances her dedication to Hausa sisterhood with Muslim identification. She believes that Auren dole (forced marriage) and the religious practice of polygamy are the everyday realities of Hausa women (Whittsit 2003).

With that in mind, she diplomatically approaches these phenomena. Her best option is to doom the lady to lifelong subjection to her husband's whims and caprices. Yes, the man is in command of the household. He is free to marry as many wives as he wants. If he wants, he can keep them all in the same house. Etc. What should I do? Bilkisu 'advises ladies on how to deal with such situations. Women, in her opinion, are accountable for their mental unhappiness when they succumb to thoughts of self-absorption and jealousy. The majority of her characters are women, and she brings them to the correct traits of Islam in the functioning of their faith,’ maturity, and loving affection toward their husbands,' through which 'women might find pleasure in the middle of a polygamous reality.'

The predominance of romance among this era's writers is, of course, unsurprising. It was popular at the time, both in books and in the home video market and it has recently taken off at full speed. On the other hand, there is the treatment of polygamy, the co-wife dilemma, girl hawking, girl child education, and the ever-present issue of widows, divorcees, and orphans.

Discussion of the major findings and suggestions

Women have faced immense challenges due to conservative concepts such as male chauvinism, patriarchy, and societal expectations surrounding marriage, religion, culture, and tradition. Despite centuries of struggles and the initiation of numerous movements and international conferences, women have little to celebrate in terms of liberation, as they continue to be subjected to torture, ridicule, and rejection by their families and society at large. It is crucial that governments and other agencies implement laws that guarantee equal rights for women in all aspects of life.

Women writers are willing to change the literary canon and opportunity given to them by the restricted rule of male chauvinism.

Women are literary fighting in the global arena to have relatively equal treatment without further discrimination and traditional hindrances worldwide.

Women realized the importance of unity in diversity as the only yardstick that can guaranteethem emancipation and the final stage in co-livelihood with men.

As Asabe Kabir Usman emphasized the right to equal education for women and discourage early compulsory marriage. She further highlighted the dominance of men over women through their laws denying women inheritance, and discouraging them from expressing their love, among others.


The term "feminism" advocates for equal social, economic, and political rights for women by removing discriminatory restrictions. It is a political stance taken by those who practice it, and it focuses on the absence of equality rather than the present. It is important to note that being female is a biological matter while being feminine is culturally defined. Categorizing African feminists as abandoning feminine attributes to act like men is oppressive and untrue. Instead, feminism is an emancipation movement that aims to transform gender biases.

In Nigeria, women advocate for recognition of their important societal roles and a unified front against gender inequality. Some Northern writers claim to be reformers, but their works often show an unsubstantiated loyalty to their faith rather than true feminist reform. It is important to recognize and support the efforts of Nigerian feminists who are working towards gender equality, and to acknowledge that true feminism does not require women to abandon their feminine attributes but rather seeks to eliminate the social and cultural barriers that prevent women from reaching their full potential.





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