Unraveling The Roles of Men In Hausa Land

Men posing

Written by Maryam Idris Bappa

Maryam Idris Bappa is a Bsc and Msc graduate of Architecture from ABU Zaria who is currently based in Kaduna State. This bold writer believes in clarity of thought hence she loves to ask questions on why things are the way they are and writes to give justified answers to them.This is why her writings mostly stay focused on thought provoking pieces written simply. Maryam's pieces focuses mostly on writing new and existing ideas in ways that will bring in interest and a new perspective to her readers. When Maryam is not writing articles, poems or sketching, she loves to engage in hand crafts or simply relax in the serene pleasure of her own company.

July 8, 2020

What makes a Man? What are the roles of men in Hausa land? Questions that ought to be no longer rhetorical in the mind of every single mind in Hausa land. Why? I will paint you a very short but interesting picture. 

What makes a man?

Title of a song by West life in their album Coast to coast December 18, 2000.

Imagine two Hausa stereotypes; Mr. A and Mr. B. Both above thirty. Mr. A is a forty-five-year-old accomplished civil servant; living a luxurious life in a well-furnished apartment, but no family of his own. Mr. B is a thirty-six-year-old moderately to do businessman; living a middle-class life with one wife or more and children. 

Who is going to be labeled more “Man” in the typical Hausa Land? Let us hold on to that thought for a while. 

Notice closely, three simple criteria including age, wealth, and family responsibility were considered in the formation of these stereotypes. And although there could be more, these three for most readers of Arewa or anywhere, were more than ample to make an immediate mental judgment as to who is considered a better man than the other. Perhaps if there was more, then it was left to those lacking in any of the three fields to find stitches to patch up their masculine wears and tears.  

A man is not who he thinks he is; he is what he hides

Andre Malraux Author of Man’s fate

Meaning that the secrets we hide are what defines us. So, could there be more to the question of “who is considered better than who in Hausa land rather than the simple societal stereotypes? Perhaps we ought to open closets and ask forgotten skeletons. Thus, we will start with the basic question of who a man is. 

Who Is a Man? 

A man as defined by dictionary sources is “An adult male person”; that is someone who biologically is of the male sex and passed the age of boyhood. Societally, to be one’s own man is to be free and independent. Meanwhile, those traits, habits, behaviors, or roles that society considers being appropriate for a man are referred to as masculinity, manliness, or manhood.

Some even argue that just like wealth, race, or social class, masculinity has a social status and higher social status is achieved with higher masculinity. Therefore, having understood who a man is, the next step for us is to begin to ponder on our initial question; that is to find out “what makes a man”. 

What Makes a Man? 

Good question. An even more interesting one coming from the opinions of different individuals; in different societies and with different cultural backgrounds and beliefs. Since there is no objective out-of-the-textbook explanation of what makes a man, it was left to assume a better way of understanding this question. As such, conducting a survey of answers from Quora—an international Q & A online platform— where questions are asked and answered to share and grow knowledge. Answers to this particular question were found and a review of them gave me the following points of what makes a man; 

  • A boy becomes a man through the process of struggle. 
  • A man is someone charged with the responsibility of caring not only for himself but for others around him. He also doesn’t blame others for his mistakes but apologizes and corrects them.
  • A man has a strong moral code by which he lives and is defined. He constantly recognizes his weakness and strives to be better. 
  • A man discovers his true inner self and doesn’t change his personality as change takes place in the outside world. In other words, he is not easily influenced. 
  • A man is conscious of himself and controls his instincts, urges, and emotions. 
  • A man is steadfast in his decisions. He knows when to be flexible and when to say no. 
  • A man is free to define himself. 

The aforementioned points have tried to define what makes a man based on the general perception of people from different societies. A man’s Life experience, Responsibility, Moral code, Strength of character, Self-awareness, Steadfastness, and Choice are what I found to be the most popular opinions. However, how can I use these points to discover which is most relevant in Hausa land? 

What Makes a Man In Hausa Land? 

You will recall the image we digested earlier of two Hausa stereotypes using age, wealth, and responsibility to decide who was more masculine thane the other. Recall how ‘you’ were also accused of making an on-spot decision. From there, we went on to explain the concept of who a man was and what was his masculinity. Our goal now is to decide as to what makes a man and what roles does he play in a typical Hausa society.

The stronger a man is, the gentler he can afford to be

Elbert Hubbard

Traits, habits, behaviors, or roles that society considers to be appropriate for a man are considered his masculinity/manhood. Seven areas including; his Life experience, Responsibilities, Moral code, Strength of character, Self-awareness, Steadfastness, and Choice were considered generally to be vital. 

Therefore, comparing the criteria used earlier in stereotyping the Hausa man to these seven points leads us closer to finding out what makes a man in Hausa society. The confluence point was found at the responsibility valley. Age and wealth when compared to responsibility, could not have been the major catalysts that influenced your hastened decision of who or what a man is. Rather the roles/responsibility attached to a man is what drives Hausa society to assess his masculinity. 

These roles of men in Hausa land will be the master key that will unlock the closet door and allow us a peek at its skeletons if any. 

The Roles of Men in Hausa Land

What are the roles of men in Hausa land? 

This takes origin from the concept of “Gender role”; which is a set of behaviors and attitudes considered desirable or appropriate based on that person’s gender. 

All these combine to interrogate the role of a man in Hausa land as follows:  

What are the roles, rights, duties and obligations of a man in Hausa land? 

How is the typical Hausa man involved in the activities of society? 

Roles carried out by men in Hausa land are undeniably vast nonetheless, they can be classified based on their positions/status or their general functions. The positional roles of a Hausa man can be dynamic, that is, it can evolve or be interchangeable based on his current position in the family and society. The Hausa man, therefore, can discharge his roles based on his position as follows; 

  • As a father 
  • As a husband 
  • As a son 
  • As a brother 
  • As an uncle 
  • As a neighbor 

The price of greatness is responsibility. 

Winston Churchill

Whatever position a man may occupy in the family or society, there are certain roles he is bound to come across. These roles unlike his positions are not dynamic. Careful analysis of both leads us to categorize the roles of Hausa land men in the society in four unique ways namely; 

  1. Domestic roles 
  2. Religious roles 
  3. Socio-cultural roles 
  4. National roles. 

These will be carefully elaborated and looked at. 

1. Domestic Roles 

Domestic roles are duties and obligations assigned to members of a household to ensure efficient meeting of its basic needs. Either as a son, husband, or father, men in Hausa land are expected to carry out assigned responsibilities in the family. These mostly include; 

  • Household Labour (chores) 
  • Technical work 
  • Household representation and Leadership 
  • Discipline and Security 
  • Financial responsibility 

Household Labour

Due to the physical strength of men, a man is expected to do hard and labor-intensive activities in the household. For example, he washes the car, performs gardening activities, and slaughter animals.

Technical Work

These include some of the roles of men in Hausa land. A typical Hausa man is expected to learn simple household technical work in order to take care of problems that may arise without employing the services of a technician. He may take care of Electrical tasks like changing of sockets, bulbs, turning on or servicing generator, simple vehicle check. Performing plumbing tasks in the kitchen and in the bathroom is also his responsibility.

Household representation and Leadership 

A man in Hausa land serves as the link between women of the house and the outside world. Religion and culture do not encourage Hausa women to have unrestricted freedom with no control. Therefore, a man in the household is faced with certain responsibilities of being a natural leader to women below and above him. He may do so by providing them with emotional strength and guidance. He might also go on errands outside the home as much as he can especially at night and, sometimes accompanying the women of the house. A Hausa man’s roles also include answering the door and ushering of male guests. 

Discipline and Security 

A man in Hausa land is expected at all times to ensure peace and orderliness within his household and arrest conflict when it arises. He is also charged with the responsibility of keeping members of the household safe from internal and external harm. Therefore, he is always alerted and checks all locks and appliances for safety before retiring to bed at night. He also watches out for suspicious sounds and movement within and around his home at all times.

Financial responsibility 

A husband, father, and sometimes even the son are responsible for the financial well-being of every member of the household. Not only that, but he is also at other times, expected to contribute to the financial well-being of other members of the extended family. As such, he must work hard and earn a living to provide good food, clothing, shelter, and education to those he is responsible for. 

Related: How Parenting Cost Me a Brother

He should also regularly give allowances where expected and also chips in contributions for the overall well-being of his extended family. 

2. Religious Roles

The predominant religion in Hausa land is Islam. This has provided the society with certain beliefs, behaviors, and obligations to follow. In addition to the completion of personal obligation to God, he is also tasked by religion with several roles. Some of these roles that religion has mandated for Hausa men include; 

  • Religious Leadership Roles: A well-learned and societally accepted man with good moral and social conduct is charge with leadership roles like He leads prayers as the Imam in mosques and leads prayers for the deceased. He assumes political roles in society. He as a man can become a scholar who delivers preaching like “Tafseer” in religious gatherings. A man is charged with carrying on the name of his father and passing it down to his children. 
  • Religious Rites Roles: The execution of certain religious rites has been assigned solely to men by religion. These rites are prohibited for a woman to perform them. They include acting as “Waliyyi” and “Wakili” in marriage, taking part in prayers of the deceased and escorting the dead to the grave, and giving out “Zakkatul fitr” (alms) on behalf of his family. He is also the one to seek permission from a woman’s father to court her when looking for marriage. He also pays a token for the woman before he can take her as his wife. This token is referred to as “Sadaki” or bride price. 
  • Matrimonial Roles: The roles of a man in marriage have been clearly outlined by religion in Hausa society. Apart from being financially responsible for his family’s feeding; shelter, clothing and, education, he is also responsible for the spiritual and emotional upkeep. He guides and educates his wife on her moral and spiritual conduct.
  • Moral roles: Personal code of conduct of behaviors and interactions with people have been clearly outlined by religion for the man to follow. He is expected to offer a handshake in greeting and say the “Salam” when passing a fellow Muslim or group of Muslims. He is expected to imitate qualities like honesty, patience, and humility among others. A Hausa man is also expected to obey and honor his parents and especially his mother as she is the key to his paradise. 

3. Socio-Cultural Roles

These are roles spelled out by society based on their culture and tradition. They are socially accepted beliefs, norms, and behaviors allowed a man in Hausa land. These may be rules handed down from generation to generation and may or may not be dynamic. They include the following:

Occupational Roles: Certain occupations in Hausa society until today are believed to be suitable for men and unheard of for women. Even though the typical Hausa man has a white-collar job, he is encouraged by society to be involved in technical/manual jobs or trading. Examples of such occupations Hausa land has outlined for men include the following; Traditional shaver (Wanzam), carpentry,  building, animal rearing and so many more.

If your only tool is a hammer, then every problem is a nail

Abraham Maslow. 

Courtship Roles: Before a man in Hausa land can marry, he undergoes a period of courtship in which after taking permission from the lady’s father, they get to know each other before marriage. Society has socially constructed roles a Hausa man must play in this period.

Related: The Ideal Process of Dating and Marrying a Hausa Girl

A man initiates the courtship process. He offers gifts occasionally to the lady whom he wants to marry.  Before he marries her, he is expected to complete the cultural rites of marriage like gifting her clothes otherwise known as Lefe and other necessary cultural rites. 

4. National Roles

Hausa people are naturally proud of genetic traits handed to them like wisdom in speech, strong moral/social code, and ambition. Wherever a Hausa man is, it is his responsibility to abide by these roles:

  • Political role: Use his natural skills and talents to govern politically and showcase his leadership roles in society and the community at large. 

Also Read: Leadership in the Times of COVID-19: The Arewa Example

  • Citizenship role: Be a law-abiding member of the nation and dispatch his duties accordingly. Abstain from criminal, social, or moral misconduct that will bring him and other people shame. He should aspire to be a man the nation would be proud of. 

At this point, we have come a long way in trying to find who a man is and what makes a man in the Hausa society. Here, we will catch our breaths and take a flashback at what we have learned to refresh our minds. 

Revisiting The Article

What makes a man? 

A man in Hausa land is an adult male person who could be a son, father, or husband. He is one whose masculinity/manhood/manliness is defined by the beliefs, norms, behaviors, duties/obligations/roles assigned to him domestically, religiously, socio-culturally, and by the nation as a whole. 

A man is defined as someone who biologically is of the male sex and passed the age of boyhood. Traits, habits behaviors or roles that society consider to be appropriate for a man is referred to as his masculinity, manliness, or manhood. The general societal perception of masculinity is based on a man’s life experience/struggle, Level of responsibility, Moral code, Strength of character, Self-awareness, Steadfastness, and Choice. 

In Hausa land, age, wealth, and responsibility/family are variables greatly valued in defining masculinity. The roles/responsibility attached to a man is what drives Hausa land to assess his masculinity. The roles of a man in a Hausa society is dynamic based on the position he is occupying in the society, positions he occupies as a father, husband, son, brother, uncle, neighbor, and so on. 

Also Read: How Society Dictated my Relationship with My Father

Roles and responsibilities of men in Hausa land were categorized under; Domestic roles, Religious roles, Socio-cultural roles, and National roles. The domestic roles include; Household labor (chores), technical work, household representation and leadership, discipline and Security, and financial responsibility.

Religious roles, religious Leadership Roles, religious rites Role, matrimonial Role, and moral roles. The Socio-cultural roles entail occupational and courtship duties. A Hausa man is also required to use his political role for the good of the society, at the same time being a responsible citizen the country can be proud of. 

We have unlocked the closet of manhood in Hausa land and peeked at what is stored inside. As for hidden skeletons, to each man his own. What are the roles he is ignoring or refusing? I believe this differs from man to man and each man is now left to decide for himself to identify and improve himself. 

As for who is more masculine than who in Hausa land— exempting societal stereotypes —, the answer is quite simple. I will leave you to ponder on and answer that yourself. But I want you to visualize the imagery painted at the beginning of this article and tell me this.

What are the roles or positions that need to be prioritized or improved the most by men and members of the Hausa land? 

Meaning of some words used 

Tafseer: Trans-interpretation of the Holy Quran usually done by a preacher in religious gatherings. 

Waliyyi: A guardian who is responsible for giving out a woman in marriage, mostly her uncle or father. 

Wakili: A guardian who represents a man when looking for a woman’s hand in marriage. 

Zakat Al-fitr: Alms are given at the End of the Ramadan fast 

Sadaki: A mandatory token which could be in monetary terms or otherwise given personally to a bride to be in Hausa land as a religious necessity. 

Salam: A form of greetings and salutation exchanged between Muslims. 

Wanzam: Local barber 

Lefe: Clothing gift is given to Hausa women and her family by her groom as part of the cultural rites of marriage. 

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  1. Abdullahi Ibrahim

    I appreciate the way and manner this piece casts away some preconceived notions of masculinity that narrates that a man is just a “responsible tough guy” and appreciates a more insightful perspective of responsibility, family, empathy and even community level roles. Well done.

  2. Abdulrahman

    This is as easy flowing as a water in a river. The essay touched on the very important prism through which men can be sieved and asses: Responsibility. Being a man comes with great responsibility, one we can not shy away from. The writer has put to shame agents of Gender Jihad by staying true to the theme of her essay and deliver in full measure the ingredients that make a man in Arewa.


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