Love and life advice from Nigeria's Instagram agony aunt

Ziya’atulhaqq Usman Tahir uses her Instagram page to provide advice when it comes to domestic violence, marital problems or a complicated love life

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A cheating husband, domestic violence, marital problems or a complicated love life are standard fare for agony aunts across the world.

But in religiously conservative northern Nigeria, which has a Muslim majority, asking for advice in public has traditionally been frowned upon and problems kept within the family.

Ziya’atulhaqq Usman Tahir and her Instagram page looks to be changing that -- with an overwhelming response that shows a true desire, if not need, for such help.

From her base in the northeastern city of Bauchi, Tahir, 27, uses her page for women to share their concerns anonymously and get advice from others.

“It is a social space that helps women to unwind by pouring out their anguish bottled up inside and seek honest opinions on how best to tackle such problems,” she said.

The page, with posts in English and the local Hausa language, also provides a forum for debate on other social issues, including drug addiction, child delinquency, financial problems and divorce.

It all started three months ago when Tahir, who had been writing her thoughts on “love from (a) northern perspective”, decided to post the dilemma of a young girl in a doomed relationship.

“She was not ready to heed to my advice so I told her I would post it for all my contacts to see and wait for their responses, which turned out to be overwhelming,” she explained.

This innovative approach to solving “marital chaos” is a departure from the ways in which some women in Nigeria’s Muslim-majority north tackle the problems of daily life.

According to Tahir, the anonymous nature of the online chats coupled with a relative rise in literacy levels and awareness among traditionally shy northern women has helped them open up.

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