…says husband sent her to school after marriage

BY JOSEPHINE IGBINOVIA

Foremost peace and development advocate, Dr.(Mrs.) Maryam    Abdullahi, a delegate at the on-going national    conference, is the founder of Women for Peace in Nigeria, WOPIN. In this interview, the 2012 winner of the Kwame Nkrumah Leadership Award speaks on her advocacy work, childhood, early marriage and solutions to insecurity challenges in the country.

You must have suffered condemnation from your kinsmen in the North for your activism; but how did you come about this advocacy work?

This is my calling. There is a belief that women from the North are supposed to be in the purdah and not outdoor, but even women in the purdah are also doing very well these days. I am more passionate about promoting peaceful co-existence. I also care and support orphans and the under-privileged.

Did this calling surface as a result of any personal experience?
No. But as a result of a burden. We actually started our campaign for peaceful co-existence when crisis started in different parts of the country, though we began in the North. We began by introducing house to house counseling. After that, there was the Sharia crisis.  My love for orphans and the less privileged has been legendary.

Is this campaign for peaceful co-existence not  affecting the smooth running of your home?
I am lucky because I get full support from my husband and it makes it easier for me to do what I am doing today. My children also support what I am doing, so, I am grateful. It doesn’t affect my house chores.

What ‘s helping you sustain your home?
I got married very early; that was immediately after my secondary education. I had my first daughter at age 17 and after that, I knew I had to go back to school.

Maryam Abdulahi

Who encouraged you to return to school?
My father wanted me to go to school but my husband was behind it. The encouragement actually came from my husband. So, today, I look at him as a father, friend, brother and husband. My husband saw me grew into a woman in his hands. I am a mother of so many children and peace reigns in my home.

But some of your men still forbid their wives from getting education and other public  activispheres…
My sister, that’s an African syndrome. Our tradition in the North says if you are going out, you need to seek permission from your husband.

Tell us about your childhood…
I am from a very disciplined home; my father is educated and he never gave us the chance to play around; he made sure we were academically sound. He is such a wonderful father and if I am coming back into this world I will want to have him as my father. As children, my father played with us but my mother didn’t because she is the very strict type. We got lots of encouragement from them and today, we are grateful for all they did for us.

You got married early; what’s your thought on child marriage which is presently facing  criticisms?
It was fashionable in the olden days but for me, I don’t think there’s any harm in a girl getting married from age 17 and above. People frown at it but if a girl is getting married, she should know how to cook and how to do other domestic chores. She should also know how to make her husband happy and how to keep a home. In my own case, I was still very young and I came from a home where we had domestic staff who did virtually everything for. But I learnt later.

In the face of violence in your part of the country, what are the challenges encountered in the course of your work?  
Violence and challenges have nothing to do with our work. We will continue to preach peace because both religions preach peace and so we will not stop advocating for peace and unity.  Despite the conflicts in the North, lots of people are still out there preaching peace and security.

Do you think it is possible to have a peaceful society when you can’t even trust your neighbour due to insecurity?
It is time to renew our efforts to stop the war of tragedy and conflicts. Peace can be built only through actions and not by mere words of mouth. It is a collective effort and we should all join hands to build global partnership for peace. By so doing, we can choose a good part for resolution of conflicts. It is a call to all leaders and organisations to strengthen their commitment to the promotion of peace and stability. With their capacity to act as tool for peace, they can build bridges. Our leaders have a unique position to reinforce a system of collective peaceful activities and make Nigeria a safer place. Promoting peace is also the task of individuals and let us all have a culture of peace based on the universal values of respect for life, justice, solidarity and human rights.

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