Law Student, Maryam Umar, Wins BBC Hausa Story Writing Competition

Maryam Umar, a 20-year-old student law student in Sokoto, Northwest Nigeria, has emerged the winner of the BBC Hausa women’s short story writing competition for 2020.

Umar, a student at the Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto, won the competition with her story entitled: ‘Rai da Cuta’ – meaning ‘Life and Sickness’ in the English Language.

Umar’s ‘Rai da Cuta’ tells the story of Azima whose husband returns from a trip exhibiting all the symptoms of the (COVID-19). Although his wife is heavily pregnant, he refuses to isolate himself and remains in denial of the virus.

Azima locks him up in a room but soon finds out she has already contracted the virus from her husband. This eventually leads to the loss of her baby and a long battle for her life.

Umar, who expressed happiness for emerging the winner said, “I have always loved books as a little girl. I would hide to read books.

“Growing up, I would assemble my friends and tell them about a book I read, but in truth it was always a story that I made up in my head.

“I have always been someone who loves to solve problems. I enjoy finding solutions in innovative ways.

“Then I found the internet – the easiest way to deliver my message. That’s how I began to write.”


Surayya Yahaya, a 25-year-old indigene of Kano State, emerged the first runner up in the competition with a book, titled “Numfashin Siyasata,” (My Political Life).

The book tells the story of a young woman, who goes into active politics to save the people of her village from underdevelopment but she is turned down by the same people she was keen on saving because she was a woman.

Her determination to represent her people leads to the death of her parents and she almost loses her own life.

Yahaya, who expressed joy for emerging first runners in the competition, said since her father died, she had not been able further her education beyond secondary school.

She stated that she would like to further her education if she could get support from well-meaning Nigerians or corporate organisations.

Rufaida Ibrahim, a 25-year-old student of the Federal College of Education, Kano State, came third with a story titled, “Farar Kafa” which literally means “The Wife Who Brings Bad Luck”.

Her book tells the story of Ramatu, who is considered ‘the bringer of bad luck’ after her husband experiences losses shortly after their marriage.

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His business crumbles due to poor financial decisions just as his small shop is destroyed by fire.

He divorces Ramatu because he believes she is the cause of his bad luck.
Her second husband dies just a week after their wedding and this causes more trouble for her.

Marina Forsythe, the BBC World Service Group Communications Publicist, explained that the contest which began five years ago was introduced to give female writers a platform to tell and share their stories.

She quoted the Editor of BBC Hausa Service, Aliyu Tanko as saying: “I’m thrilled that this year’s awards were won by very young writers which show how our primary targets have embraced this competition.

“Many writers have been empowered by these awards over the past five years which is a testimony to how we value our young female audiences.”

Bilkisu Funtua, the Lead Judge, said: “To me all the writers are winners.

“We see a sharp change in the themes and writing styles from what is typically seen in Hausa women’s writing. But Maryam Umar’s ‘Rai da Cuta’ is outstanding.

“This writer was able to incorporate wit and humour in what could have easily been the saddest story.

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“She brought to the fore front the nonchalance of our people toward the coronavirus pandemic in a unique style.”

Also speaking, Oluwatoyosi Ogunseye, Head of BBC West Africa said the organisation was pleased to support the competition.

According to Ogunseye, it is important to provide female Hausa writers with the platform to tell their stories.

“This year’s winner highlights a story that everyone can relate to in these unprecedented times.”

BBC Hausa is part of the BBC World Service that offers a breadth of multimedia content which reaches 24 million people across the world on a weekly basis.

It broadcasts to Hausa-speaking audiences, providing radio, online, and TV content in West Africa as well as to diaspora audiences.

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