The 21st century women in Nigeria are definitely shattering the glass ceiling! They are now, more than ever, able to multi-task and know how to hold onto the many balls life and career threw at them. Many of them have come out of these challenges with beaming smiles of triumph written all over their faces.
Mrs. Shafa’u Ladan Yusuf, a Chief Magistrate and a Principal District Court Judge in Bauchi State, is one of such amazing and exceptional women. Life threw too many challenges at her and she had so many reasons to give up on her dreams of becoming a lawyer, but she simply gritted her teeth with determination and jumped into the gruelling studies that come with becoming a lawyer. Today, sharing her story with our correspondent, Yusuf was just simply full of laughter as she reminisced about those university and Law School days.
In those days, she used to take her baby to school and would often sneak out of the lecture room to breastfeed him. The Chief Magistrate reminisced that growing up was filled with fun and the memories of her childhood always bring smiles to her face. She said: “I have so many happy memories of my childhood and I’m hopeful that one day I will share it with the world in a book.
I started my education in a Qur’anic school when I was very young. The school was called Shekal Primary School and that was in 1978. In 1983, I went to Federal Government Girls’ College Bauchi and in 1991 I was admitted to read Civil Law at the University of Jos. I was unable to make it that year until the 1993/94 session, but by then I was already married and had a seven-monthold son, Zahraddeen.” Yusuf graduated with an LLB in 2000 and proceeded to the Nigerian Law School, Lagos Campus in 2001. In 2002, she graduated from Law School with a BL and in 2003; she was employed by the Bauchi State government as a state counsel with the Ministry of Justice.
In 2008, Yusuf was elevated to the lower bench as a Senior Magistrate and in 2009, she went to the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS), University of Lagos Campus, Akoka, for a Master’s Degree (LL.M) on Legislative Drafting. As a Chief Magistrate and a Principal District Court Judge, Yusuf presided over both criminal and civil cases. Recalling the challenges she encountered before becoming a lawyer, Yusuf said: “The challenges I faced were managing a home with children and school, whilst my husband was always away on military postings within or outside the country. I started school with one son and had two other sons while I was there.
From the two I had while in school, I lost one in my fourth year, and then had the other some weeks before my final exams. The Dean of Law then, Dr. Jamila M. Nasir, used to help me strap him to her back while I wrote my exams. I also went to Law School with a baby, who was barely six months old and mind you, I did exclusive breast feeding.
I used to leave him with a nanny outside the lecture theatre so that I could hear him anytime he cried. Whenever he starts crying, I would sneak out of the lecture hall to breastfeed him.” Yusuf, while recollecting her past life, said that being a practicing female lawyer also comes with its challenges. She added: “The challenges being faced by women in the legal profession are like those in every other profession. Women are bullied in workplaces and in politics, due to lack of effective legislation explicitly and unequivocally protecting them.
The constitution, which is the ground-norm, does not recognise that women are at a disadvantaged position. Even gender friendly laws like the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act, needs to be reviewed and tinkered with to adequately cater to the challenges faced by women in their chosen careers.”
In addition to her work, which is adjudicating on matters at the Bauchi State High Court, Yusuf also has interests in how women and children issues are addressed in the state and the country at large. Yusuf also talks about the initiatives she has handled in caring for women and children. Between 2006 and 2007, Yusuf was the Secretary General of Network Against Girls’ Street Hawking (NAGSH).
The organisation, according to Yusuf, was a Non-governmental Organisation (NGO) of the then wife of the Governor of Bauchi State, Hajia Amina. It was supported by UNICEF and other development partners in ensuring that girls, who were at school ages, were actually going to school as against going to hawk on the streets. Hawking in the streets makes them vulnerable to predators such as rapists and ritual killers, said Yusuf. She said: “The impact made by our network was felt all across the state and a lot of well-meaning Nigerians and donors supported us by making available to the network the much needed resources.
These resources were used in alleviating the hardships felt by the parents of the girls. It was this hardship that necessitated the girls leaving schools and opting to hawk wares in the streets.” Yusuf explained that she was able to attain the height that she is now in spite of the African belief that women education ends in the kitchen, because of the kind of father she had. She stated: “The success or height I have attained in my career can be attributed to the kind of father I had and also my husband. My husband believes so much in the education of the girl-child that he has been pushing me to go for my PhD. My husband believes that education never ceases while one is still alive. He doesn’t agree with the notion that my education should end in the kitchen. He wants to see me attain more successes and I also believe in education.” Yusuf is zealous when it comes to reading and learning new things.
She’s happiest when confronted with challenges, espeka Akocially one, which has to do with new and interesting things. “I read a lot and like the saying goes, the internet is my best friend forever,” she enthused. Yusuf woman, who is a member, Programmes Steering Committee Bauchi State and the Women for Peace and Security Programme, talked about the roles of women in ensuring peace and security in the society, especially now that Nigeria is being faced with the issue of insecurity She noted: “The role of Women in Peace and Security, has always and will always be immense.
Women have never been known to initiate conflicts, but they end up being the major victims of such conflicts. The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR), was unanimously adopted by the United Nation Security Council in the year 2000.
The UNSCR 1325 affirms that peace and security are more sustainable when women are equal partners in the prevention of conflicts. It further argues that women be made partners in the investigations, prosecutions, adjudications and rehabilitations of victims of conflicts and is exactly what we have been trying to see encapsulated into our security architecture of Nigeria, now that we’re facing a myriad of security challenges.” Yusuf, who is also a member, Bauchi State Action Committee on Sexual and Gender Based Violence, spoke on the best punishment for rapists and how to ensure that the victim gets justice. She said: “It’s not the issue of what the best punishment for rapists is, or will be, but adequately making use of the extant laws to see that justice is served.
We have a lot of legislations such as the VAPP Acts/Laws, which if implemented properly, will bring an end to these SGBV issues. However, these laws are not adequately implemented. There is the need to mass educate the implementers of the laws such as the arresting, investigating and prosecuting officers on the proper ways to go about their jobs.”
She further stated: “The State Action Committee and Sexual Gender Based Violence is a baby of the Bauchi State First Lady. It was applauded by the state government and accordingly, promoted to a standing committee under the office of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), with membership from all critical stakeholders in the administration of criminal justice. The committee is saddled with the responsibility of aiding the achievements of justice in cases of State Gender Based Violence through advocacy, sensitisation and rehabilitation of victims.”