Maryam Umar has won this year’s BBC Hausa short story contest for women with her story ‘Rai da Cuta’, life and sickness.
Maryam is a 20 year-old student studying Law at Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto.
Umar tells the story of Azima whose husband returns from a trip exhibiting all the symptoms of Covid-19. Although his wife is heavily pregnant, he refuses to isolate himself and remains in denial of the disease.
Azima locks him in a room but soon finds out she has already contracted COVID-19 from her husband. This leads to the loss of her baby and a long battle for her life.
The first runner up in this year’s competition is from Surayya Zakari Yahaya titled ‘Numfashin Siyasata’ or ‘My Political Life.’ The story that came third is by Rufaida Umar Ibrahim titled ‘Farar Kafa’ which loosely translates to ‘The One Who Brings Bad Luck.’
In its fifth year, the contest was introduced to give female writers a platform to tell and share their stories. 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 Salisu Ahmed 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. She brought to fore front the nonchalance of our people towards the coronavirus pandemic in a unique style.”
Maryam said: “I’ve 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 actuality it’s a story that I made up in my head. I’ve 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 writing.”