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20-Year Old Law Student, Maryam Umar Wins BBC's Short Story Contest For Young Girls

Now in its fifth year, BBC Hausa introduced the competition to give female writers a platform to tell and share their stories. "Rai da Cuta" (Life & sickness) by Maryam Umar has won this year's BBC Hausa short story contest for women. Ms Umar, is a 20-year-old student of Law at Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto. In "Rai da Cuta," she tells the story of Azima whose husband returns from a trip with the symptoms of Covid-19.

Although his wife is heavily pregnant, he refuses to isolate himself because he is in denial of the disease. Azima locks him in a room but soon finds out she has already contracted Covid-19 from him. This leads to the loss of her baby and a long battle for her life.

Ms Umar said this is her third year of entering for the competition. "I tried two times before now and this is the third time I am trying and luckily for me, this time around I triumphed," she said to Premium Times Hausa. "I thank Allah for this opportunity by BBC Hausa and I am calling on other female writers to take advantage of this to show their skills in writing."

The first runner-up in the competition is a story by Surayya Zakari Yahaya titled "Numfashin Siyasata" or "My Political Life." It is the story of a young woman who ventures into politics to address the underdevelopment of her village.

But she is rejected by the same people because she is a woman. Her determination to win over the conservative people leads to the death of her parents and almost cost her her own life.

The story in third place is by Rufaida Umar Ibrahim titled "Farar Kafa," which loosely translates to "The One Who Brings Bad Luck."This is the story of Ramatu who is tagged 'harbinger of bad luck' after her husband experiences losses in his business shortly after their marriage.

His business crumbles due to poor financial decisions and his small shop was burnt to the ground. He divorces Ramatu because he believes she is the cause of his bad luck. Ramatu remarries but her second husband dies just a week after their wedding and this causes more trouble for her.

The two runners up, Rufaida Ibrahim and Surayya Yahaya, applauded the BBC Hausa for encourging women writers. " I was really excited when I received the call that my story made it. It is the second time I am putting up sometime, and luckily for me this time around, I made the top three," Rufaida said.

Now in in its fifth year, BBC Hausa introduced the contest to give female writers a platform to tell and share their stories.

The editor of the Hausa Service, Aliyu Tanko, says: "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 last five years which is a testimony of 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 a sad story. She brought to the forefront the nonchalance of our people towards the coronavirus pandemic with a unique style."

Oluwatoyosi Ogunseye, Head of BBC West Africa, says: "We are pleased to be supporting this competition. It is so important to provide female Hausa writers with this platform to tell their stories. This year's winner highlights a story that everyone can relate to in these unprecedented times."

The winner and runners up received their prizes on Friday, December 4, at the award presentation ceremony at the Ladi Kwali Hall, Sheraton Hotel, Abuja.


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