If radio programme Ya Take ne Arewa (What’s Happening Up North) was a person, she’d be a caring Kaka, ‘grandmother’ in Hausa.
She wants every pregnant mother and baby in Nigeria to be alive, safe and healthy. She wants families to communicate and support each other in the care of children – because she believes the business of bringing up a child is everybody’s business.
Once a week
She does this by broadcasting once a week in Hausa through more than 40 radio stations in Northern Nigeria, discussing maternal and child health topics such as child spacing, antenatal care, exclusive breastfeeding, safe drinking water, malaria and diarrhoea.
But why? She knows that according to UNICEF, Nigeria is the second largest contributor to child and maternal mortality rates in the world. Her simple solutions to common problems – such as using mosquito nets to avoid malaria and giving water and rehydration tablets to children suffering from diarrhoea – are helping stem preventable deaths.
Celebrating 500 episodes and almost a decade on air, Ya Take ne Arewa is certainly a popular old lady. During this time, people have listened to her, sought her counsel, and referenced her advice at home and in the street.
She’s aware of how much she has touched lives positively through the thousands of text messages she receives each month.
In celebration of her 500th episode, Kannywood stars (northern Nigeria’s answer to Bollywood cinema) Baballe Hayatu and Rahama Sadau – who recently starred in a BBC Media Action public service announcement to encourage peaceful elections – were just a few of the many celebrity actors in to the studio to read out some of the inspiring messages she’d received.
Baballe, wearing a beaming smile and his trademark traditional Hausa ‘fulai’ hat, read out a message from Ali, a listener from Kubwa Abuja; “I’ve always enjoyed your show. I always tell my wife that not washing your hands after using the toilet can cause you problems but she disagreed. Today she heard it on your show and now she believes me.”
Picking out another message from Jibrin in Borno State, Baballe read out; “Peace YTNA [Ya Take ne Arewa]! Because of your radio show, I spoke to my friends about child spacing and it really helped them. Thank you very much.”
Ya Take ne Arewa found her voice almost a decade ago as Ya Take Ne (What’s Up) with a focus on preventing and managing HIV and AIDS amongst young people in Nigeria.
Although her priorities have changed over the years, her aim has always been the same: sharing her grandmotherly experience and wisdom on health for the next generation.