Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hadiza Mohammed, writer for children

Hadiza Mohammed, short story writer

Hadiza Mohammed is a Nigerian writer from Kano State.  She is passionate about writing for children and has a pet project for mentoring young girls in secondary schools to start writing early.  In this interview with Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku, the Ahmadu Bello University trained micro-biologist and parasitologist reflects on the hopes and challenges of a female Nigerian writer. Enjoy
Who is Hadiza Mohammed?
Hadiza: I am a female writer from Kano State. I live in Abuja and that’s where I do my writing from.  I am also a member of the Abuja Writers Forum. I like writing children’s stories. My major area of interest is in folk and fairy tales. Presently, I collect Hausa fairy and folk tales and will translate them one day hopefully and make them accessible to children.

Readers are curious to know how you got into writing. What was the journey like?
Hadiza: Growing up, I learnt to write things down instead of complaining. I maintained a diary as a child and from there I knew that I would write a book someday. Going through secondary school, I loved writing poems as well.

What kind of training have you had both as a writer and as an individual? Would you recommend training for budding writers?
Hadiza: I attended Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria and had a BSc in Microbiology which I supported thereafter with a postgraduate diploma in medical lab science in parasitology. I love writing…it is my passion and that was why I first of all had a creative writing workshop. It would be a good idea for writers to get training.

Tell us about your own training: I started by buying and reading books both from bookshops and online from Amazon. Thereafter, I attended a fiction class with a professor. From 2013 to 2014, I did another creative writing programme with the Abuja Writers Forum where I learnt about things like plot, point of view, voice, setting, characterization, theme and story line development. I would recommend the AWF programme for its intensity of design and the way they build your potential. It had elementary, intermediate and advanced modules.

What are your experiences as a writer who is a woman in Nigeria?
Hadiza: As a woman people don’t really take you seriously. They assume that you are weak mentally and unable to dissect issues logically like anyone would. They also assume that when a woman writes about women and children issues that you are a feminist. Sometimes when people hear that you write and you are a woman, they nearly freak out. They tell you: ‘Look, you’re a woman, you should not read too much’, or ‘Get married first and see…your husband will never allow you to read and write. He will ask you to focus on raising the family’.

So how have you overcome these prejudices about women writers and one from the North?
Hadiza: Personally I have not given up on my dreams as writer and I don’t focus too much on these negative assumptions about a writer who is a woman. I don’t give up on myself and my passion for writing. We need women to write more because they are the ones who would be able to tell women’s and children’s stories better. It would be good to have a market woman who would be able to tell the story of the challenges in the market or issues of abuse and violence against women. Women need to tell their own stories.

You are a volunteer and you read to children consistently. Tell us about it.
Hadiza: I help children read. I read to them as well. Our current theme this time at the American Corner is ‘sparking a reaction’. We believe that readers are leaders and we want the kids to inculcate this. Story telling is a tool that can be used in the development of the minds of children.  If you are involved with social media, you would ordinarily realize the need to read early and be liberated from the way our people look at things. How could anyone believe that bathing with salt and water immunize you from a viral infection? (sustained laughter) Our people are not encouraged to read. Our people read only religious books, books that would make you a millionaire or books that make you smile better or look good. Not reading affects the development of our community and country.

What are currently working on now? Do you have any published work?
I have a short story, which is about to be published in a collection by Flood publishers. I have already submitted four volumes of my picture books for children to the Golden Baobab awards for children literature. There is a discussion going on with Cassava Republic. Presently I am writing a short story about an almajiri. The other one is about a mosquito, Little Kito – the travail and adventures of a mosquito.  I am also trying to coordinate a mentoring programme for secondary schools. The focus is to encourage young girls to start early. If they start early, they would go farther than us.