As a university student, a group of girls had times without numbers individually confessed to me their preference of having male acquaintances as friends to their fellow females; in which a large number were Northerners. Each time I asked them why the answer always seemed to be deeply rooted towards one trust or emotional issue or the other. Most of them thought that men were in a position to be better listeners to sensitive emotional issues and outbursts; but generally, most claimed better mentors were found in men than women in academic situations. Meanwhile looking closer, I still observed those same girls in excited groups attending lectures, weddings, religious activities, workplaces and I ended up asking myself,

 “How authentic is the relationship between these ladies?”.

Interrogating the Authenticity of Sisterhood in Northern Nigeria: Belief vs Possible Reality 

The adjective “Authentic” itself when linked to the noun “Sisterhood”, describes believable/genuine love and/or acceptance involving an association of women linked by a common interest. This brings us to probe on the question of “What could indeed bring Northern Nigerian women together?”. I know the thought that will run on many minds at this moment is the popular belief that Arewa women come together only for gossiping or in, either way, end up gossiping. But if indeed that is the case, is it right to make a deduction from the earlier expressed fear that girls have of trusting their closest female acquaintances; or could there possibly be more to this sisterhood than we have chosen to believe?

Concept of Sisterhood – Reality and Importance in The North

Sisterhood in the present day is more than a mere sharing of DNA between women. No, it has extended to a mutual feeling of love and acceptance between two or more women sharing similar interests; with the conscious aim of inspiring them to be better individuals while reaching their highest potential. No one lives life with the hope that they end up alone without friends. No matter how taut or brazen a person is, he or she has a great need to be loved, motivated, and more importantly appreciated. A good sisterhood no matter the kind should display great trust, honesty, loyalty, compassion, and mentorship. This is only possible in a situation where there are shared goals or interests. But as I have come to realize, interest is dynamic just as how life is. 

Understanding the reality of Sisterhood Pattern in The North: Journey of a 21st century Northern Lady 

For a typical lady from the North, her interests begin to change right from when she is born ranging from the meals she chooses to take to her nap time with mummy; till she attains puberty, gets married, has children, and grows old. This leads us on the journey of a typical 21st-century Northern lady’s sisterhood pattern throughout the better days of her life to find out the degree to which each display authentic affiliations. This pattern can be classified into three phases which comprise of 

  1. Phase one: Childhood Affiliations
  2. Phase two: Premarital Friendship
  3. Phase three: Post-Marital Friendship.

Phase One: Childhood Affiliations

From the moment a lady is born, her environment shares similar values to the household in which she is brought up. Although this may differ in unique situations, it is agreeable that people in her age group are likely to display similar behaviors in agreement with their moral and social upbringing. Typically, everyone has a deep connection with friends they make during that time popularly referred to as ‘Childhood friends”. These have proven to prize trust and compassion the most among similar virtuous characteristics. They appear at needed periodic intervals to remind one of the values and beliefs that hold dear to one’s being. Similarly, childhood friends offer solace and comfort in times of confusion and chaos because they share similar moral, emotional, and spiritual and educational interests. 

Phase Two: Premarital Friendship 

As the Arewa lady grows, her interests shift and her radius of potential widens. While she may pick interest in becoming an independent 21st-century woman, another might have her sole focus on getting herself married to an agreeable gentleman by all standards. Whatever path a Northern lady may choose to follow, she must cross path with ladies from religious and western schools and also friends from her place of work all converge to form a sisterhood that is as strong and passionate as her desires and dreams within that period.

These groups of friends display unshaken loyalty as they understand what is at stake and how mandatory it is to stick together and achieve their aim. As time goes on, some of these friends move on to get married causing a slight shift in interest. This causes the Northern lady to develop an inferiority complex to some of the people she once had shared goals with. This is where the bond of sisterhood with some of her friends weakens making her panic and hold tight to those she still shares interests with. These groups of friends usually share mentorship, loyalty to, and compassion for each other due to similar educational and life interests.

Phase Three: Post-Marital Friendship

The next and last phase of the sisterhood journey of an Arewa lady begins and ends with marriage and birth. This is where she strives to find decent post-marriage sisterhood and it is up to her to determine which faction to belong to. Now, this could be a very sensitive period for the Northern lady and pose a great threat to her due to her immediate environmental and psychological changes and friendship established could meet with an emotional cloud fogging her mind. It takes great tact for her to establish a lifelong sisterhood ranging from her co-wife at home; members of the P.T.A. at school; work or simply neighborhood friends.

As such, the 21st-century Arewa lady has been found to find affiliations in online platforms and groups where she can share a common interest with her fellow women. At that stage of her life, she defines compassion and mentorship by her ability to be heard and not judged conveniently provided by these existing platforms and to also learn from the variety of women out there eager to share. This will rid her of emotional and trust turmoil arising from being engaged in offline friendships. 

Describing the Authenticity & Importance of Sisterhood of Arewa Ladies?

Coming back to our initial question; “How authentic is the sisterhood between Northern Nigerian ladies?” assessed based on their tendencies to display trust, honesty, loyalty, compassion, and mentorship, we can say that the authenticity of Northern sisterhood could be described as being a grossly dynamic one. It is a fragile fraternity likely to break at any point in time owing to emotional fragility, lack of trust or mentorship, and even discrimination between women of varying social class or marital status. However, as the Hausa saying goes;

“Ciwon ya mace a mace ne”  

which when translated means 

“It takes a woman to understand a woman’s pain”

One way or the other, we are all likely to fall back to our naturally inclined affiliations. Our societal norms and religious tendencies have spotlighted the need for women to support each other and be together. After all, a few decades ago, a woman in courtship attended to her suitors only in the presence of a young girl likewise a newly married woman was sent to her husband’s house not alone but with her sister to serve as a companion for a while, Outings for women be it weddings or parties were also approved as long as they were in the company of other female companions. Hence, it becomes imperative to encourage these affiliations for women to relate with each other in an ‘Authentic Sisterhood’.

Improving The Journey of the Sisterhood of a Northern Lady 

This could be achieved through mimicking online platforms that have allowed women of varying interests to be open about their problems in an airy non-judgemental atmosphere. A great deal of compassion and mentorship is exhibited by those platforms and a befitting template for Northern women of similar and varying age groups to each other. Also, there is need for the Northern woman to understand that in a sisterhood where her friends are likely to get married before her, embracing her inferiority not only leaves her detached from a carefully built friendship but also makes the other party feel abandoned, alone and in search of a new fraternity.

Lastly, the Northern woman that finds herself in sisterhood with a co-wife should identify that they both have a common interest and shared goal. This will eliminate unpleasant and emotionally blind acquaintanceship discovered in post-marriage affiliations and strengthen the bond of “Authentic sisterhood”.

After pondering intensively on realities of friendship between Northern Women, I found that although Northern Sisterhood is a fragile fraternity capable of breaking up at any point in time due to arising differences of interest. There is also indeed more to Northern sisterhood that meets the eye. The initial belief that women come together only to gossip or the discouraging assumptions that women are unable to offer compassion, loyalty, honesty, mentorship, and truthfulness is unfair to the great deal of support these groups offer to women of varying ages and beliefs. Their paths may indeed vary at several points of their lives, but the fact remains that fierce loyalty remains a fire burning in the heart of Northern women at any immediate point in time.

So next time you also spot a group of Northern ladies at a restaurant, school, wedding, or marketplace, I want you to look more carefully and imagine a truly authentic sisterhood vehicle moving on a road full of unprecedented diversions. 

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