Melinda sent me this interesting story:
“The palace, under a rusted corrugated roof, looks mostly like a shed. Only one delicate pair of feet in its single room is shod, and they are in black rubber flip-flops.
This is the genteel court of Queen Hajiya Haidzatu Ahmed.”
According to the article, Queen Hajiya is a traditional chief in Kumbwada Kingdom, in Northern Nigeria. (Google searching suggests that it’s more often spelled Kumbada.) It’s unusual for women to ascend to power in that conservative Muslim region. The queen’s secret weapon?
“Here, an ancient curse keeps males off the throne, according to locals. Male pretenders who dare to try will be buried within a week.”
That sound you hear is Hillary Clinton smacking her forehead and saying “a curse! Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?”
In all seriousness, though, it turns out that being a woman in a region where men are cursed off of the throne has some excellent fringe benefits:
[I]n the community Hajiya has ruled for 12 years, women get a sympathetic hearing in cases of wife beating or divorce.
“When domestic issues come to me, the way I treat them will be quite different to other traditional chiefs,” she says. “I’m a woman and I’m a mother and I have so much concern and experience when it comes to the issue of marriage and what it means for the maintenance of the home and what it means for two people to live together.” [...]
Most traditional African rulers reflexively side with the male head of the household in a family dispute. So a girl resisting marriage to a much older man she doesn’t love is likely to be ordered to obey her father. A woman who complains she is being beaten is likely to be told to obey her husband.
Hajiya had one wife-beating case early in her reign.
“I told him if he ever beat his wife again, I’d dissolve the marriage and put him in prison,” she remembers. “Marriage is not a joke, and women are not slaves.”
Since that case, she has made a point of campaigning against domestic violence whenever she holds court in local communities. She says she’s never had another beating case. People know where she stands.
Not to mention that she’s a firm supporter of Take Your Daughters to Work Day:
“She keeps her grown daughter, Idris, by her side whenever she holds court, grooming her to be queen.”