Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Empty, isEmpty, nonEmpty, isDefined, isDefinedAt in Scala (Difficulty: Basic)

Functional programming is fun. Scala is fun-ner. There are so many little helpful functions in scala that make writing code less tedious and a lot more exciting. Scala took Java's verbosity and smashed it with a baseball bat and I am here for it. Throughout these series, I will discuss useful helper functions (scala in-built) that just make life easier for you and your data structure of choice (based on use-case/performance etc).

We will start with functions Empty, isEmpty, nonEmpty, isDefinedAt and isDefined. These functions are used on different types of scala data structures, across mutable and immutable collections. We will briefly look into these data structures before getting into which functions are applicable to what data structure. 


Scala Collections are the containers that hold a sequenced linear set of items like List, Set, Tuple, Option, Map etc. Collections may be strict or lazy. The memory is not allocated until they are accessed. Scala has mutable and immutable collections. According to the scala docs, A mutable collection can be updated or extended in place. This means you can change, add, or remove elements of a collection as a side effect. Immutable collections, by contrast, never change. You still have operations that simulate additions, removals, or updates, but those operations will in each case return a new collection and leave the old collection unchanged.

Examples of mutable collections are:  

  • Array Buffers

  • List Buffers

  • StringBuilders

  • Linked Lists

  • Double Linked Lists

  • Mutable Lists

  • Queues

  • Array Sequences

  • Stacks

  • Array Stacks

  • Hash Tables

  • Hash Maps

  • Mutable Bitsets

Examples of immutable collections are:

  • Lists

  • Streams

  • Vectors

  • Immutable stacks

  • Immutable Queues

  • Ranges

  • Hash Tries

  • Red-Black Trees

  • Immutable BitSets

  • List Maps


Scala's Option represents optional values. Instances of Option are either an instance of scala Some or the object None. (note: Options have some useful functions like get and getOrElse to convert an option of a type into a type which will come in another article)

Now that you are familiar with the data structures, let's get into the functions. 

  • isDefined — True if not empty

  • isEmpty — True if empty

  • nonEmpty — True if not empty

You can use isEmpty to evaluate both scala Option and also to test for emptiness on a scala Collection. At the source of scala isEmpty, this is what you would find.

final def nonEmpty = isDefined

Now based on the above example, nonEmpty and isDefined are the same thing. Much wow, right?

Okay more examples:

val caseOne = Some("Jane")

val caseTwo = None

val collectionOne = Seq("Jane", "John", "Ali")

val collectionTwo = Seq.empty

caseOne.isEmpty : false

caseOne.nonEmpty : true

caseTwo.isEmpty : true

caseTwo.nonEmpty : false

collectionOne.isEmpty : false

collectionOne.nonEmpty : true

collectionTwo.isEmpty : true

collectionTwo.nonEmpty : false

caseOne.isDefined : true

caseTwo.isDefined : false

collectionOne.isDefined : value isDefined is not a member of Seq[String]

did you mean isDefinedAt?

collectionTwo.isDefined : value isDefined is not a member of Seq[String]

did you mean isDefinedAt? 

collectionOne.isDefinedAt(0): true

collectionTwo.isDefinedAt(0) : false


isEmpty function is applicable to both Scala's Mutable and Immutable collection data structures. It is also applicable to the generic data types like Strings and Options. It checks whether a given collection/string/option is empty and will return a boolean response (either true or false). The same applies to nonEmpty which checks if a variable is not empty and returns true or false.

Empty on the other hand creates an empty collection.

isDefined checks if a variable of type Option is defined. For collections, one would have to invoke the  

isDefinedAt which checks a particular index of the collection. In the above example, we check for index 0 on collectionOne which returns true but when we tried to invoke isDefined on a collection,

This brings us to the end of this series. If you notice, all our responses are boolean responses, this is not a coincidence (insert wink). As we go further into scala and its uses, syntaxes and semantics, we will discuss other non-boolean return type functions and hopefully, get to have some fun along the way.

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Saturday, January 2, 2021

2020: Books That Kept Me Sane Through This Very Strange Year

It has been an incredible year. I will not recap all of the negatives that happened this year. Experiencing and surviving a pandemic is enough. I don't think it would be possible for anyone to possibly forget this year so i will simply celebrate the good.  To have achieved nothing other than staying alive this year, in itself is an accomplishment. Along the way (i mean while locked at home with my thoughts), i found companionship in books which i have listed below that kept me going. 
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I planned to read a lot more books this year unfortunately life happened, other things took priority (working two full time engineering jobs is not a joke) but i was still able to get a few good books in during the lock-down. I hope someone finds any of the books useful, as i did. There is a little something in here for everyone. 
It would be impossible to select which books were my favorite but i tried to categorise them by genre below. If you have read any of the books listed above, please leave a comment and share. 

Self-Help/Sociology Titles
  1. Remote - Jason Fried 
  2. Outliers: The Story Of Success - Malcolm Gladwell
Fiction Titles
  1. City Of Thieves - David Benioff
  2. Homegoing - Yaa Gyasi
  3. White Teeth - Zadie Smith
  4. Free Food For Millionaires - Min Jin Lee
  5. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevski
Islamic Theology/Islamic-Feminist Theory 
  1. Believing Women In Islam: Un-reading Patriarchal Interpretations Of The Qur'an - Asmaa Barlas
  2. Qur'an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective - Amina Wadud
Non-Fiction Titles
  1. Beneath the Tamarind Tree: A Story of Courage, Family, and the Lost Schoolgirls of Boko Haram - Isha Sesay
  2. Hallucinations or Reality - Micheal C Richards
  3. History Of Humankind: Sapiens - Yuval Noah Harari
  4. Hausa Women in the Twentieth Century - Catherine Coles, Beverly Blow Mack
Health Title
  1. Green For Life - Victoria Boutenko

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Monday, June 1, 2020

The Best Thing A Girl Can Be In This World, Is A Beautiful Fool

I read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald sometime in 2013. I loved the book and I loved the movie. It was a beautiful story and at the time, I was still a naive little girl with fire in her veins. I was just discovering what kind of person I wanted to be and at the time, I had recently found a word for the kind of woman I was and it was feminist. For me, feminism is an obvious choice for every woman. I couldn't be anyone or anything else, coming from where I was coming from.

The Hausa society, like most societies out there (including the supposed deplorable "western" societies), is not an egalitarian society. The intellectual Hausa man (and woman) would like to make you believe the society is one that is not misogynistic. That in fact, is an Islamic society that gives women their rights as stipulated within the boundaries of shari'a. Unfortunately, that is not true. The Hausa society is one of the worst societies to be a woman in. It is bubbling with toxic patriarchy that is not hard to see, even when peeping from outside. There are so many unjust gender roles that guide who a woman should be and what she can and can't do (most times, unislamic biases) which do not in any way or form apply to men. If there is any more inegalitarian, misogynistic, and unaccommodating of feminist intellectual thought society, I do not know about it (or rather, do not know enough to comment about it) as I am only familiar with my own reality.

In Chapter 1 of The Great Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan says to her friends, Nick and Jordan what she hopes for her daughter.
"I hope she'll be a fool—that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool. "

At the time, I thought of Daisy herself to be a fool. The character, beautifully played by Carrie Mulligan embodied Fitzgerald's idea of a woman with foolish aspirations. It was a weakness for me, to wish such an unfair aspiration for one's daughter.  The older I got, the more I saw life through the eyes of Daisy. If you have read the book, you will know Daisy is a woman whose entire story revolves around a man (or two men...or one man...depending on how you read the book). The naive feminist in me couldn't bring myself to not read Daisy's character without admonition and judgment. A lot has happened and a lot has changed and most of all, I have grown up and Daisy might have been onto something.

It will be dishonest of us to talk about our realities without acknowledging how our personal stories affect and shape who we are and how the thoughts that fester in our brains got there. Ideas are seeds that grow. To separate my experiences from my story would be a dishonest starting point.
I was raised in a family of women. I have 3 fierce sisters (one older and two younger) and one brother. I was not raised in a community of women who asserted themselves and chased big goals. I did not have around me, any woman who lived the life I wanted to have for myself. If anything, I wanted to be far away from all the women I knew. I did not know any woman who worked in a big office or held a big position outside of the home (and even within the home they are often second class officers). It all seemed a weakness to me. 
Little did I know the patriarchy does not make sense and what seemed to me like weakness was in fact, something else, something that runs deeper than I could ever understand in one lifetime. Oppression is systematic and it is ingrained deep into our society. It is easier to surrender at the beginning of a battle that you know is already lost. I always thought, because I went to University and had the freedom to choose my career path as a teenager, that I could separate myself from toxic patriarchy. As I like to think my father a self-made intellectual, I believed I could be separated from his own primal upbringing which includes an ideology of male ownership (or guardianship) over women. Now I wonder if my circumstance would be different if I have had 3 brothers and one sister instead. 

Today I see Daisy for a compassionate mother. How could she not wish for her daughter to be a beautiful fool? A beautiful silent fool. A disappearing fool. A fool who would marry a rich man and silently accept the role society has carved out for her (errmmm sign me up). An easy life. How could she not want to protect her daughter from the curse of wanting more for herself? That I think is mercy. For those of us unfortunate enough to want freedom and a voice, I will be honest with myself and all of us, we are in for a life of misery.

The Patriarchy is nothing but a system of control. Everywhere, within the boundaries of the Hausa community, there is someone telling a woman to be silent, attempting to control her, hide her, make her less of a person. If it is not the father, then it is the father figure or the male scholar or the husband. The moment a female gets married, the major advice she is given is to obey and honor her husband who is the head and she well...the anus. Marriage has become an institution of oppression and toxic patriarchy. Too many women are in unhappy marriages today because they are afraid to leave. Mathematically, a woman's strength is directly proportional to how much disrespect she can accept, silently. Polygyny has become a tool used to punish and subdue women. A man's self-worth on the other equation is directly proportional to how many women he can control at home. Young girls and old women are being raped and murdered daily while simultaneously getting shamed and bullied into silence. Yet, the Hausa community has the audacity to feign surprise at the seemingly climbing rate of divorce. Young women are growing up to know they want a better bargain than their mothers and grandmothers, young women are rescinding the silence of their mothers. Young women are understanding that financial freedom is the key to mental liberation. Women have been robbed of their confidence for years, so much so that where does one go from there? What happened to marriage as a partnership where both spouses honor and respect one another? Women have been made to believe that they are incapable of knowing who they are and what they want without the guidance of egotistical men. I paraphrase Dr. Shehnaz Zindebad here where she says, in her youtube vlog on Islam and gender: The idea that women are emotional and to be emotional is believed, in the case of women, to be a bad thing, is what makes women illogical and inferior to men. This is used as a basis for a lot of society's oppression towards women. The patriarchy accuses women of being so inherently jealous (whilst ignoring the fact that male jealousy is often a very violent and threatening thing) whereas, male jealousy is very much validated within the patriarchy that laws are written to honor and protect male jealousy. In all societies everywhere, men are allowed to control women exclusively to protect their jealousy. How could one wish to not be a fool when knowing all of this and demanding the freedom to choose, to break free from the shackles of a system of control, and to have a voice is an endless fight? A lifelong fight.

I would like to say this is a situation that is only prevalent within the less educated echelons of the community but it is not. The educated intellectuals are only so evolved and in tune with the egalitarian ethos until their egos flair and they are faced with a powerful and assertive woman. Then they begin to ask where her male guardian is. Or begin to spew words like "I have one like you at home" meaning they have a wife whom they oppress at home or who does not even know she is being oppressed. Women like Amina J Mohammed are looked upon with a questioning gaze that asks where her male guardian is and how she was "allowed" to get to where she is. Words like "allow" and "permit" are the primary language that surrounds the institution of marriage ala patriarchy. It may seem like it is protection for women but really it is not. It is simply oppression.
Even within our institutionalized religions, women are said to be inferior and "lesser people" although, within the Islamic context, the Qur'an says to choose the mother three times before the father. It is suffocating and overwhelming when you know your rights and demand them but keep getting robbed and punished for demanding and asserting it. There doesn't seem to be a way out. Only fools do not know their rights and so do not know to demand them.

The Egyptian feminist writer, Mona Eltahawy said: 'To the girls of the middle east, Be immodest, rebel, disobey, and know you deserve to be free' and I agree with her to an extent. Women cannot politely demand to be heard as it does not work. The only way a woman's voice would be heard is if she vehemently refuses to shut up. If you cannot be the fool that Daisy hopes her daughter to be, then one could choose to rebel like Mona advises. Regardless, the patriarchy would still have no respect for the fool or the rebel. In its eyes, both are secondary humans who have to fight for their right to exist as full humans with the capacity for independent thought. Both are subject to being treated as children who are incapable of making rational choices. Isn't it infuriating and sickening that the patriarchy gives the male child authority over the mother? Isn't it unjust that female children's confidence is always kicked down while male children's confidence is nurtured and encouraged?
Realistic feelings of confidence and positive self-esteem affect how you think and act, how you feel about others, and how successful you are in life. Parents' attitudes are crucial to children's feelings about themselves, particularly in children's early years. When parents provide acceptance, children (girls) receive a solid foundation for good feelings about themselves. If one or both parents are excessively critical or demanding, or if they are overprotective and discourage moves toward independence, children (girls) may come to believe they are incapable, inadequate, or inferior. I use girls in bracket because male children do not face the stifling of independence at the level that females do. Lack of confidence prevents women from being assertive and reaching great heights and that is the primary ingredient for raising a fool.

I wish foolishness could set women free but to be very honest with you, that is simply burying one's head in the sand. Was Daisy successful in raising her daughter, Pamela to be a fool? Did Pamela end up having an easier life (doubtful)? I have no clue.  I'll have to wake F. Scott Fitzgerald from his eternal slumber to ask him for the second part of the book.

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Saturday, May 23, 2020

A Race For The Sunset

Context: In January, I and my best friend in the world decided to take an uncertain trip to a place far away from home. We chose the Maldives because it was the only seemingly magical location where we didn't need a visa. We had previously tried to travel to Europe but visa issues and limited time so we quickly made a choice. We could not have made a better decision. This was one of the many magical experiences I had and I tried to recapture the moment in the language in which I felt it. 
We had taken an evening trip to Guraidhoo, which is one of the many magical islands of the Maldives.
I have gone back in my head several times to this moment. To the profound euphoria and ecstasy that I felt. If only words could do a moment justice. I try. 


Guraidhoo bid us adieu when we made the niyya to search for the sunset. She hoped to see us again and if not in this life, she asked for a visit from another. My bowed head buried this promise in my heart. In the middle of God’s Indian ocean, we believed the sunset would welcome us home. The water set its pace and we set our sail, on our mark as we began the speed boat journey, to the middle of the world, where the sky meets the sea. We picked up speed and Guraidhoo became smaller and smaller until the mighty wind joined us on our race. We had 20 minutes to catch the artistic wonder of the sunset. Our driver and his sidekick braced their feet against the floor of the boat looking ready to take on the world. The captains of the sunny waters. Silky hair and kinky curls flew with the gust of the ocean breeze while we made our journey to the sun. There was nothing but God in the sky. The clouds were boastful as they took their form and became massive structures above our heads. I could hear them daring man to attempt to construct as beautifully as they can. They laugh at the weight of our brick walls and glass towers. While we sink, they rise high above the ground, weightless and exhilarated, boastful, and proud. What wonder, I was captivated. 

Our drivers still, defying the wind raced through the sea. They were a young and intimidating army of two, ready for conquest, with no shield or armor. This was no ordinary battle. Which of our wars has been against the mother universe? Who would win in a war that has already been won, humanity seemed so insignificant and small in the vast ocean as we chased the sun. My aching arms clutched the railing of the boat for dear life as the wind carried it’s ocean and asked us to make our peace with it. The pain was meaningless, the wind was stronger and I knew it. I closed my eyes and imagined the depth of the ocean, not even nothingness could scare me while in front of me, our war raged against the fierce current of the water and was being won by young island boys who have grown up fighting this fight. There was no CGI theatrics I still couldn’t believe my eyes. The wind took up its challenge up a notch and I held on for my life. My companions asked if I am okay. There were no words left on my tongue to answer their question. So I smile, comforting myself with the gift of sunnah as the limitations of my language suddenly dawned on me. I received the punishment for this curse of the English language, I accepted the saltwater as it slashed my face and dried my tongue. Aristotle could not have possibly documented in any language, this work of God that is the sky, the sea, the majestic drivers, and the looming sunset. So I forgive myself quickly for my linguistic shortcoming.  I send out a promise of a poem, a verse, or an ode. Immortalising the moment seemed like a life or death ordeal. As we begin to sight the boat on to whose deck we have received parley to view the sunset, I marvel at an irony. The menacing high walls of the Maafushi prison complex stood angrily and bitterly on reclaimed land. To deny one the beauty of the Southeast Asian sunset must be the cruelest punishment of all. How did we all fall for the lie of a system that kept people in cages? The walls stood tall, reaching for the sky, towering over every other building that has been sunk into the sand to keep a person in darkness. An unholy embrace. I could see no rehabilitation, only a sin. I close my eyes and give gratitude for my freedom. I am reminded of how quickly humans can become cruel and so this beauty must be praised. I prayed to the mother to exonerate us of the wickedness of the heart. Time was ticking but God was calling. 

We reached the Princess and alighted onto its wooden floor. Wound our way up to its belly and onto its deck. The sun had set. We had reached the end of our journey. God of the universe, whichever soothes your heart was reaching for me, calling my name. The pink sunset reflected the pink of my shirt and the pink twinkling Christmas lights that snaked around the neck of the deck. It was the most beautiful burst of color. The sun was large and soothing above our faces. The clouds, wanting to keep this beauty to themselves did their best to hide the descending sunlight. Is this a sign? I cry my eyes out at this magnificence. My tears seemed so small against the vastness of the sea and the ravishing sunset. I could feel it all, the love, the disappearing sun, the darkening water, the relentless wind. I answered the call and the muezzin sang through the heavens almost to say, Shaheedah, calm yourself. Believe in a God of wonders.

Allahu Akbar he bellowed but of course, this is greatness. Sunset at Maghrib is as inseparable as life and death. I answered the call for I have borne witness to the greatness and wonder of the God of wonders. Hayya alal Salah! Hayya alal Falah and with hurry, I wiped my tears and received salvation. The darkness had taken over the sky as the sun went on to have its rest.

Arabic words used: 

niyya - Intention
Allahu Akbar - God is great
Sunnah - Habitual Practice (also defined as the body of literature which discusses and prescribes the traditional customs and practices of the Islamic community, both social and legal.)
Hayyah alal salah - Rush to pray
Hayyah alal falah - Rush to success

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Sunday, February 17, 2019

#ArewaMeToo: A Hausa Normalised Culture Of Abuse

In Solidarity with our sisters fighting the good fight with the #MeToo movement!

A friend was lamenting late last year about how the sanctity of marriage has been bastardised. "Our hausa communities are rife with divorce." he cried. Fortunately or not so much, he came to me.

This year started out for me with the #MuteRKelly documentary. It is a crime documentary like no other because it is still on going, and then this nightmare came home. Over the last few weeks, harrowing details of abuse experienced by women/girls at the hands of men hit the twitter streets. All of the perpetrators of these violence against women have been people who claimed to have "love" for the victims. Trusted people even within homes. This shocked Hausa twitter. The verses for and against hitting women from the Qur'an were shared (we are still debating the autonomy of women). It was not the occurrence of the abuse itself that was so shocking, it was the why, the who, the i cannot believe it, the what did you wear, the why make it public.
One twitter user shared her story about the abuse she experienced at the hands of a previous lover. This began a domino effect on the streets of twitter which is still gaining momentum. To first of all understand the magnitude of this twitter user, Khadija's (@the_brown_one) story, is to understand the gravity of what she had done. The story came out to slap us in the face. To slap me in the face. The stories we keep hearing and sitting on top came to glare us in the face. We all knew her abuser, Lawal Abubakar (since deactivated his account), be it on twitter or in real life, that was the wave. What we did not know were the brutal details of how he turned Khadija into a property to be owned and destroyed if could not be had. Khadija is not alone. The outpour of support from women who shared her pain was a sight. These stories started vomiting out of accounts we have followed for years and did not know the trauma the humans behind the handles were living. It shakes up your idea of reality and you are left questioning who is around you.

I have never felt safe. Be it in Nigeria, be it abroad. We were often told as children that men are dangerous. My mother's fears involve us getting attacked by men, killed by men, raped by men, abused by men. I do not remember a time when these worries did not follow my mother everywhere. I remember telling her one time about getting attacked while in University and she was ready to end my education and bring me back home. The fiction is in the belief that my mother can protect the four of us when there are billions of men out there everyday getting taught to take up space in a woman's life. These men are never taught to take responsibility for their actions and you can see it in almost ever other nigerian household. Hausa people love image. Maybe it goes the same across other cultures but i am only aware of the culture i live in. We are often more concerned with the illusion of normalcy than normal itself. It is best to make it look like everything is fine than to invite the gaze of curious eyes and wagging tongues. So we accept the culture of abuse that allows and normalises the men we have allowed into our lives to unquestioningly commit acts of violence against women. (Abusers count on the silence of their victims to continue terrorising victims.)

When you hear stories of abuse in hausa communities. LOL, you don't hear stories of abuse in hausa communities. You hear whispers, a word hear and there. The tears are often washed and dried behind closed doors. He beat her once. It happened once. He raped her. You hear them take her back, marry her off to him. She goes back because she has nowhere to run. We assume these things do not happen because we do not talk about them. They only happen in the "west". That is why the abuse of women is so prevalent within hausa communities. When Khadija reposted her story (previously published in 2017 on her blog) on twitter, i saw bravery and i wept for her pain. The thread was riddled with a lot of women asking her what took her to his place. As Oh Captain! My Captain!,  Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi said, we all breathe misogyny. From all the stories, all the abusers were enabled by friends and family that did not see the cause for alarm because well, it is a woman being "corrected"---probably. One common trend by enablers is to claim women are influenced by western agenda. We have normalised abuse so much in Nigeria and the statistics of the abused becoming the abuser are out there. Not too far from reach. There is so much abuse in the homes, in the schools, in the streets. The discussion must never center around the circumstances of the victim. Trusted family members violating young boys and girls and threatening them into silence. I dropped out of Islamiyya because my teacher flogged me for going to a boarding school and forgetting some of my memorised Qur'an verses. I never went back and i never memorised the whole Qur'an. The abuse is endless and these all shape up our lives. We carry these burdens with us.

Returning back to my friend, he spoke about how young Nigerian women were not ready to stay in committed relationships anymore. "Women are not patient anymore", "Women don't want to marry anymore", "Women want rich men". As impassioned as i was, i wanted to have a conversation.
"Can you blame them? women are tired?" I asked.
He could not understand it. Tired of what? he asked. At my cousins wedding, the most prevalent unsolicited advice that was dumped on her by well-intentioned aunties were "Bari, na bari" (stop, i have stopped, in literal English). These 3 words have been drilled into the skulls of Hausa girls since time immemorial. The husband is supposed to be able to "discipline" his wife. Men are told to "control" their women. Women are asked to "ask for permission" from men to simply be. He could not understand it. We are all poster boys for the patriarchy,  I continued.
Our communities are rife with the romanticisation of the subdued woman. The woman who takes it all and does not put up a fight, like our mothers. Men are often told at a young age, that the world is theirs for the taking but the woman is a homemaker. Even between children, male children are allowed to be aggressive and often times, violent while female children are often raised to be empathic and patient so they are less likely to be violent and aggressive. Consciously or unconsciously, these indoctrinations shape up our outlook on life and who we decide to become. The words we encounter daily take up plenty space in our lives.

The age of information is a beautiful age. What a time to be alive, really. The male and female dynamic has been defined right before we were born. The roles carved out. Our mothers found it that way. Women are often forced, to settle into roles that do not in fact benefit them. Education came to change the face of the game. Young hausa girls and women are connecting with each other and other women across the world. What we found is that we share a common suffering as women. Violence against women is prevalent across the globe. A UN publication in 2018 reported, "Approximately 15 million adolescent girls (aged 15 to 19) worldwide have experienced forced sex (forced sexual intercourse or other sexual acts) at some point in their life. Out of these, 9 million adolescent girls were victimized within the past year. In the vast majority of countries, adolescent girls are most at risk of forced sex by a current/former husband, partner or boyfriend. Based on data from 30 countries, only one per cent ever sought professional help". The age of information threw at us tools to detect the problems in our society yet, the solutions have taken up so much time to actualise. The age of the subdued woman is dead, I tell my friend. He thinks women are against men and i tell him to begin asking the women around him why they "suddenly" want to change the status quo. What is the status quo? Who wrote the status quo?

There are many angles to look at the normalisation of the oppression of the hausa women from, especially when religion and tradition have been used as a weapon to keep women quiet. That is why i find much bravery in the #ArewaMeToo stories. Whenever these stories break out, the outrage and fake concern is usually towards the victim. Every female victim has been asked, why were you there? what did you wear? what did you say or do or did not say or do? When men are abused, nobody asks what were you doing there or what did you wear?
We have to change the narrative. As long as men are not taught to not be abusive, violence against women will continue within our communities. We must teach empathy and compassion. We must respect that women cannot be owned and if we must, we will keep fighting for our autonomy until we cannot. These stories will follow us and haunt us. We can choose to close our eyes to the menace that traditional values have instilled into us, or we can choose to keep expressing fake moral outrage whenever these stories hit home.

I say to the victims sharing their stories. You are not alone. We are all in this fight together. To the ones who cannot speak out, healing happens in waves. Take your time. Forgive yourself. It was never your fault and it is still not your fault. If you need help or need to talk to someone, there are plenty of us out there rooting for you.


  • Lagos State Hotline (08137960048) for Domestic and Sexual Violence
  • Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative, (WRAPA) +2348188699961, +2348172125692, +2347063807887


1) UN, Ending Violence Against Women, 2018.
2) Olu A, Temitayo I. O .Gender and political participation in Nigeria: a cultural perspective. Conference: 3rd Toyin Falola Conference, At Durban, South Africa. 2014
3) https://darknessandblues.wordpress.com/2017/08/20/that-day/
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Sunday, November 18, 2018


Almajiranci, we can all agree is one of the evils that beautifies Northern Nigerian streets. The Almajiri system is a system of oppression that takes away the fundamental human rights of the most vulnerable members of our society, children. You can be rest assured to walk into the streets of any state really in Northern Nigeria and you will be welcomed with a sight of children holding rubber bowls and begging in traffic stops.
These children often range from as young as ages 3 to as old as ages 18. Yes, I have seen children as young as 3 begging in the street. There is no strict age criteria or any standards, one simply has to be willing to forcibly snatch childhood away from a child before sending them out to the streets to become statistics. You would often see these children walking about with no sense of personal hygiene and if you talk to one of them, you would often be met with a lack of hope. One would wonder where these children are coming from. Are they orphans? Does nobody care for them? People care.

According to a Wikipedia definition, “Almajiri is a system of Islamic education practiced in northern Nigeria. We'll go with that. Almajiri is gotten from an Arabic word "Al-Muhajirun" which can be loosely translated to mean a person who leaves his home in search of Islamic knowledge.” The sight of these almajiri children often times evokes a feeling of social responsibility/spiritual obligation on the everyday Hausa man/woman. We were all raised with the belief that "da na kowa ne" (a child is everyone’s responsibility) so you would find people who would always give these children money and food. This sounds good in theory, but it is not.

The Almajiri system, in the northern Nigerian context, is a system of traditional education which involves sending children to live in what we would call boarding houses with a “Mallam” who takes up the responsibility of teaching the child about Islam and The Qur’an. This is not an entirely terrible system. These informal institutions of education have existed across northern Nigeria from a very long time. It was a system which fascinated white colonizers whom came to Northern Nigeria, expecting savagery and barbarianism but instead, found a people well versed in the teachings of Muhammad (S.A.W). Arabic and Islam fused neatly into the northern Nigerian culture as it paved a way out of alleged darkness. Islam brought about emphasis on learning to speak and write the language of the Qur’an. The community was included in funding these schools and maintaining their standards. Through the teachings of the Qur’an, the Sokoto caliphate was established which successfully ran these systems of education in conjunction with the Borno caliphate until the colonial wars which ended up killing prominent Emirs in the north. The system fell apart. These schools now have to rely primarily on alms and farm outputs by the students as the system has since been abolished and hence, does not receive any funding from the state.

Ideally, leaving the moral upbringing of a child to the parents and the educational aspects to the schools is a system that works. Today, according to a report by the National Council For The Welfare of the Destitute, nearly 7 million Nigerian children have been failed by this system. Children are still sent into the almajiri system in large numbers. With a growing population and farms to be tilled, these Mallams often set the children to work, forcing them to work long hours on the farms without any monetary compensation. The Mallam sells his outputs in the market to feed his family and cater to his immediate needs and sometimes produce enough to feed the children. Often times, the children’s nutritional requirements do not make it on the Mallams list of priorities. The direct effect of this is children begging on the streets. Whatever they can get, they take it back to the Mallam who uses the money however he pleases.

We have heard the numbers and we have all cried outrage but why does this system still exist? What can we do to fix it? Well for one, we need to stop giving these children money and empowering the Mallams.
Every Friday afternoon is a day of chaos on my street. This is because an Engineer who lives opposite my family’s house shares money (500 naira, most times less) to a group of elderly men and women. I am not sure when this man started this and why. All I know is they keep coming back every single hot Friday afternoon to sit and defecate in front of my father’s house, begging until the sun goes down. Almajiranchi has become synonymous to begging. We would now call any person begging in the street or from door to door an almajiri. Why do you think these people keep coming back to beg for alms? Because we keep giving. As long as we keep giving people who beg on the street, they will always keep coming back to the street. Giving Zakaat is one of the fundamental guiding principles in Islam. Islam, the foundation of the Almajiri system of education. One is required yearly, to give a portion of his profit to charity. However, encouraging almajiranchi is not giving out Zakaat. Giving people who beg on the street money is not empowering them, if anything, we are taking away power and agency from them by reinforcing their belief that as long as one begs, he/she is entitled to receive. It is a toxic culture which no child should be intentionally sent into.

The Almajiri system is in desperate need of reform. It is a system that failed, post-colonial invasion. Begging became a natural trickle effect of poverty, which a lot of the children in this system are products of. Poverty often pushes parents to send their children off for an education. It is almost a win-win if the system worked. Families can afford to cater to other needs while the educational system took care of one extra child to feed.

Almajiranchi is not a system that can entirely be abolished as a large population of Northern Nigerians still adhere to and defend this practice. We can improve it. Both Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto were educated through this same system of education. Historically, this system has worked once. It educated some of the founding fathers of the Nigerian Republic.

Through rigorous reform tactics, this educational system can be liberated. Schools need funding, the responsibility of catering to the children’s basic needs, including feeding and housing cannot fall solely on the shoulders of the Mallam. A strict curriculum that includes basic hygiene, human rights and western educational components can better prepare the Almajiri for a life far from destitution. A child who is educated and aware of his rights would not be gullible enough to fall into the traps of groups like Boko Haram who are always looking for innocent na├»ve children too manipulate. Insurgent groups benefit from this failed system because it is easy to recruit children born into poverty with the promise of a place to sleep and hot food in their bellies. For a price of course.

The truth is people have always cared. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, HRH the Emir of Kano has repeatedly called for reform. I remember growing up in Kano and we would be stuck in traffic with my mother and she would talk to these children no older than her own children. She would often scold them about hygiene, tell them to go and take care of their clothes but ultimately, at the end of the day, she would give them some spare change and they would pray for her as she speeds off into the world. Her social guilt and the belief that da na kowa ne have been satisfied. She experiences a spiritual fulfilment and the children will walk up to the next car and have a similar interaction. They will keep tapping on car windows until one of us winds down and says, enough is enough.

Children do not belong on street corners doing god-knows-what to survive.
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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Burned Tree

Did you think
You were made of blood and bone,
Daughter of the sky,
When the women you came from,
Dug the ground with their nails,
And gave life to the stars?

Do you forget,
How your mother raised,
Lions and jaguars,
Slept of her feet,
To break the ground in two,
So you could walk?

What wonder,
Within a woman’s chest,
When she can stand on her feet,
Feed the world with one hand,
And balance the universe,
With the other.

Like the burned trees,
With the blackened skin,
Still standing under desert suns.
Even in death,
The mushrooms find life,
Within her womb.

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