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Nana Asma'u: The Model for Literate Women Muslims

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Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs

Maxwell African Scholars Union


Nana Asma'u: The Model for Literate Women Muslims

A Talk by Beverly Mack, Professor Emerita of African Studies, University of Kansas 

Nana Asma’u was an 18th century woman with 21st century sensibilities. A devout Muslim, she was a feminist activist whose strategies for political and religious reform changed the social order in northern Nigeria forever. Asma’u was classically educated, quadrilingual daughter of a jihad leader, and an accomplished author and teacher of both women and men. Following the jihad, Asma’u focused her energies on the education of non-Muslim rural women, socializing them through poetry. She accomplished this by training cadres of women as itinerant teachers who used Asma’u’s own poems as lesson plans in villages throughout the region. This system of women educating other women became known in the Hausa language as the ‘Yan Taru, The Associates.  The ‘Yan Taru program continued to operate in northern Nigeria after Asma’u’s death to the present time, and has also been established among Muslim women in the United States.

Sponsoring Departments: Maxwell African Scholars Union, Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs, and Middle Eastern Studies Program 

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