Maryam Hassan Baba is the founder of Northern Women Therapist and in this interview, she speaks about how the social enterprise counsel and strengthens marital relationships as well as how to reduce failed marriages, amongst other things.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Maryam Hassan Baba, I am the founder of Northern Women Therapist which is a social enterprise that handles premarital counselling, strengthening of marital relationships and individual therapy.
We have concluded arrangements to hold this year’s northern therapist annual marriage conference to impact on more people in our society.
Can you tell us more about this planned conference?
This is the third edition of the Northern therapist annual conference. The idea to be holding the conference annually was as a result of our findings that only few people have access to our services and as a matter of extending the good works we have been doing in reducing the rate of failed marriages in our communities. We have seen the impacts of our activities in strengthening marriages.
That is why in our quest to allow everyone have access to our services, we decided to have a larger gathering of people in one place and allow them to access our services. That is why we decided to be hosting the conference annually. We initially started with 200 people and now we are hosting about 1000 people.
What really influenced your decision to initiate this conference?
We looked at our society and the increase in divorce rate; we have cases of couples divorcing just two weeks into their marriage. We have come to realize that most of the causes of divorce are preventable and manageable. If people are supported with the right tools, with the right skills to communicate in resolving their conflict, chances of divorce are definitely going to get lower.
However, it is apparent that with less divorce cases, the society will surely be a better place than it is and that is why we decided to organize the conference to enlighten couples to understand that divorce is not the only solution to marriage crisis.
What is this year’s theme of the conference?
This year’s conference has ‘Intentional Marriage’ as the theme. We want to look at how we should be intentional in our marriages, and we are focusing on two challenges affecting the marriage institution. We are looking at the challenge of infidelity and the challenge of financial constraint.
What do you mean by intentional marriage?
We have realized that marriage is an institution where you need to be intentional; one needs to know that every action you take has an implication. And if you want to have a better marriage, you have to work for it. Therefore, there is a need for couples to understand that they cannot have a successful marriage if they are not working towards having a successful marriage. That is why we are tagging this year’s theme ‘intentional marriage’, so that we can shift the mindset of couples to understand that if they want a working marriage they have to put in effort.
What are your feedback mechanisms in measuring the effect of your activities on couples?
Our feedback mechanisms have been our feedback forms which we usually give to our participants. They can also send emails, as well as walk into our office any time to tell us the impact of the conference on their marriages.
We have been receiving positive feedbacks so far, and then the enrolment in our free marital classes is increasing tremendously. This is an indication that we have really impacted positively in the lives of many couples.
We have been engaging Islamic scholars to directly interact with our participants and also to educate them on the best ways to handle marriages, which is the Islamic way, because we have realized that there are gaps between what they thought the marriage institution is and what it really is.
Do you agree that the North has the highest rate of divorce?
Not necessarily true because there are no validated statistics to support that. However, perhaps, the reason why it is assumed that the North has the highest rate of divorce is our population.
Apart from what you have earlier mentioned, what else do you think contributes to failed marriages?
Another cause of failed marriages is lack of investment in marriage by parents, the husband and the wife. All parties usually prepare for marriage ceremonies which usually last for one or two days and forget to equip these intending couples with the skills to navigate through the marriage huddles.
Unfortunately, many of these couples do not know what requirement is needed for them to get married and they also do not know the responsibilities attached to getting married. They lack the skills to control their emotions and expression in moments of anger among other serious issues that need to be understood before getting into marriage.
Do you have any existing working relationship with Kano state Hisbah?
We are currently working towards that and that is why in this year’s conference, the Kano State Hisbah Board Director General Sheikh Aminu Ibrahim Daurawa is the first keynote speaker, as well as Malam Abdulwahab Abdallah.
Several Ulamas have given talks to participants on different marital issues during our conferences.
However, we are also working on the possibilities of making it mandatory for intending couples to present their premarital counselling certificate before getting married, especially in our mosques.
How do you source your participants?
We have built about 30, 000 community member platforms online, and through that we enlighten them, we guide them as well as counsel them on marital issues. It is within this community that we generate our participants. This year, we have so many people that registered to participate in the conference even after closing of registrations.
You talked about having a community online. What about those in rural areas with no access to the internet?
For the rural areas, we initiated a project tagged ‘Project Zo Mu Zauna’ and under this project, we have deviced means to reach out to the communities in order to educate and sensitize them. We have also launched series of radio programmes that are aired weekly.
What do you intend to achieve at the end of this year’s conference?
We hope to attend a level in which couples will understand what infidelity is, and also how to effectively manage their finances.
Are you restricting the conference to women only?
No, it is open to men and women, married and unmarried, as well as intending couples. It is vividly clear that the marriage institution really needs an overhaul, and it is the responsibility of everyone to contribute in making the institution work as expected. It is a duty not only for the Northern Women Therapist, but a responsibility vested on all stakeholders. It is apparent that a healthy marriage society is a healthy society to live in.