The history of Hausaland (in present-day Nigeria) boasts more than just huge wealth and vast lands. There is also their long line of fantastic female rulers. More than just queens, these women were also warriors who changed lives.
QUEEN AMINA OF ZARIA
Queen Amina was a queen of Zaria (in what is now Kaduna state, Nigeria). She ruled in the mid 16th century. Amina was known for being a fearsome warrior well-deserving of title queen. Bravery and courage was also in Queen Amina’s blood. She had a powerful female role-model to look up to in her mother. Queen Bakra Turunku became queen when Amina was 16 years old. Before she became Queen, Amina’s mother had also been a warrior. Amina inherited her mother’s fearsome and awe-inspiring nature. She spent her childhood honing her military skills and became famous for her own bravery and military exploits.
Amina eventually assumed power when her brother Karama died after a ten-year rule. By this time, Amina’s fame as a warrior was widespread. However, Amina did not stop fighting in wars just because she became queen. Only three months into her reign, she led and won her first battle! Amina was a truly courageous leader. She personally fought in many wars and survived each one, remaining in power for around 34 years.
She won so many wars that people believe that she stretched the northern Hausa territory as far as Bauchi in the east and the Niger river in the south. Queen Amina is one reason why Hausaland is so huge today and remains one of the greatest West African historical kingdoms of all time. She brought stability to Hausaland at a time where central Africa was in a state of war. Also, under Queen Amina’s rule Hausaland became the centre of North-South Saharan trade and also East-West Sudan trade. Amina hugely boosted her kingdom’s wealth and power with gold, slaves, and crops.
WOMEN CAN BE EXTRAORDINARY
More than just a warrior and queen, Amina was also an incredible architect. Hausaland is known for the walls built around many of its cities. That is also part of Amina’s legacy. She designed them to protect each city she conquered from further invasion. These walls are thousands of years old and many have been maintained to this day. Amina’s legacy lives on even now. Her prowess and ability are also still celebrated today in song. They call her “Amina, daughter of Nikatau, a woman as capable as a man”.
Many historians talk about how men led militaries and ruled with both peace and strength. Queen Amina shows that women, like men, also built empires. She stands out amongst past African kings and queens by bring peace and wealth to a kingdom surrounded by disaster. Amina ruled and flourished in a time where men were not threatened by women in powerful positions. If somebody ruled, it was either by merit, age or kinship.
Queen Amina contradicts existing stereotypes about women in leadership positions. She shows how equal opportunities can benefit whole communities. Africa has such an empowering history, centuries ahead of the United Kingdom and United States who only began to think about women’s rights in the 20th century.