In the course of this project work, the researcher explores Zaynab Alkali’s literary art works of Cobwebs & Other Stories and The Stillborn to analyze the thematic pre-occupation as contained in the title of this research. The deprivation or the other, like early marriage, subservient role and patriarchal society. In all her works, Zaynab Alkali has through her craftsmanship been able to bring the fore denigration of the girl-child in Nigeria, especially in the Northern part. In line with the above, this research work deals in total with the major themes as it affect the girl-child and women in general. It also take into cognizance some female writers who have written on the same topic of liberation of girl-child from the shackles of male dominated world. The methodology adopted in this work is content analysis.



Title page                                                                                                                        i

Certification                                                                                                                    ii

Declaration                                                                                                                      iii

Dedication                                                                                                                        iv

Acknowledgement                                                                                                           v

Abstract                                                                                                                              vi


1.0 Introduction                                                                                                                 1

1.1 Background to the Study                                                                                            1

1.2 Statement of the Problem                                                                                          2

1.3 Aims and Objectives of the Study                                                                              2

1.4 Significance of the Study                                                                                              2

1.5 Scope and Limitation to the Study                                                                             3

1.6 Methodology of the Study                                                                                           3                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

1.7 Definition of Terms                                                                                                    4-6

1.9 Biography of the Writer                                                                                            6-7


2.0 Literature Review                                                                                                          8

2.1 Women Empowerment and Gender Equality                                                     8-12

2.2 Female Voices in African Literature                                                                   12-16

2.3 Self-Actualization in Contemporary Society                                                     16-21


3.0 Introduction                                                                                                                 22

3.1 Synopsis of The Stillborn                                                                                       22-23

3.2 Thematic Analysis of Cobwebs & Other Stories and The Stillborn                24-46


4.0 Summary,                                                                                                                47-48

4.1 Conclusion                                                                                                               48-49

4.2 Recommendations                                                                                                 49-50

       Work Cited                                                                                                              51-52                                                               









           This project work presents the women as second-class beings piqued from the way they are referred to as element of erotic desire stationed by race, class and gender as subservient group of people lower and inferior to their male counterparts. This research work have two major concern. First, it illustrate the prevalent gender inequality as a reflection of Nigerian society and the absolute relegation of women into the background.


           This research work got it footage on the concept of feminism. As at mid-1800s was used to describe the qualities of female and it became more popular and widely accepted after International Women’s Conference in Paris. It means the belief in advocacy for equal rights for men and women centered on egalitarianism of both sexes.

            Zaynab Alkali’s conception of feminism is ‘’womanism’’. Womanism signifies the place of women in the society as well as their positions and motivating factors. The fundamental meaning of the concept is not buttressed on binary opposition but of unity in diversification of the sexes. Womanism eschewed opposition or resistance as feminism does as showcased in the combination of short stories under consideration.


             Over the years different researchers have made attempt to analyze the literary piece of Zaynab Alkali most especially her feminist approach. It is very obvious that little effort have been channeled towards exhausting the themes. In the course of this project, the researscher is to take into consideration the themes in her work, Cobwebs & Other Short Stories and The Stillborn, analyzing them one after the other as it relates to her struggles in light of the new woman of the 21st century.


            The objective of the study are to discuss exhaustively the thematic concerns in Zaynab Alkali’s collection of short stories i.e Cobwebs & Other Stories (1997) and The Stillborn (1984). Depicting how these thematic concerns plays a major roles in conscientizing women of their positions and duty in the modern day society. This research work is motivated basically to proffer panacea to the inferiority complex and marginalization of women due to the patriarchal syndrome of the society. Another objective of this study is to endear Nigerian women to fully realize their potential not giving in to male intimidation come what may.


           Primarily, the relevance of this study lies in the creation of impact on the concept of womanism which is more general than radical which does not suggest up-rooting and new beginning, rather denotes the place of woman in the society coupled with the position and motivating factors. This work will clarify the fact that the concept of womanism is based on the co-existence of both sexes. At the end of this study, the work will serve as a lime light to subsequent researchers who would want to make additional research from this work.


         This study is based on, as well as limited to the collection of short stories (Cobwebs & Other Stories) and The Stillborn, by Zaynab Alkali, placing emphasis on the thematic pre-occupation inherent in the literary pieces. During the course of this research work there are challenges of gathering resource materials and inductive style.


        The method of gathering information is based on content analysis, using one novel and a collection of short stories by the same author. The present researcher will discuss female characters and their situation in relation to the thematic focus. Library, journals, internet, and books were duly consulted in carrying out this research.



        Conceptualization of gender connote the socially constructed differences which lead to the inequality, oppression and exploitation while the male is regarded as unique and important. The female which is depicted as inferior and incompetent compared to their male counterpart.

        Barry Lee, sees ‘’Feminism as an off-shoot of both sexes resulting from women’s liberation movement’’ (29). Feminism is a reaction against the way and manner literature tended to subordinate or marginalize the position of women. Hellen Tiffin is ‘’concerned with the way and extent to which representation and language are crucial to identify formation and to the construction of subjectivity’’ (37-40).

       Marxism on his own posited that, literature is seen as a tool to challenge, debunk and confront male conception of the female. The beauty of literature is used to re-imaging the world in which we live and represent the image of women correctly so as to help women perceive themselves as agents in society whose feelings and experience could recover from the oppression of silence enjoined by them through the patriarchy. To feminist writers, literature is not merely to expose cultural activities in the light and challenges to gender relations, feminism plays emancipators role in the society. An emancipation of the female gender from the mentality of inferiority.

       Hitherto, the canon reflected the dominant power of the males over and above the females. A lot of literature written by men did not reflect the trials and tribulations of child bearing and rearing, a central experience of the woman. Instead, they reflect male views of reality or reinforce male views of women in presenting stereotypical female characters and experiences. Male representations of women in their literary texts are usually one-sided. They therefore, inculcate the wrong the learning experiences.

       Feminism has various approaches; the African variant accounts for and deals adequately with the colonial experiences of Third World women where they suffered double forms of oppression from colonialism and its aftermath with patriarchy. Womanism is one of the variants of African feminism. In this variant, the female writers show women in their works as mothers, wives, lovers, victims of poverty and tyranny, exploiters and exploited tempters and intellectuals, which Zaynab Alkali portrays. They conjure the picture of women struggling to survive through any means as a way of responding to male subjugation in a society that would deny them a place, a voice and visibility. Another variant is revolutionary feminism where male subjugation is challenged not just because the woman have been victims of such a system but because they wish to assert themselves as important and indispensable to male.

        The stance of feminism is clear. It does not question the divine injunction of the submissiveness of the wife to husband. Yet this submissiveness is not a mark of mediocrity seeing that women have distinguished themselves in diverse human endeavours. The mission of feminism is therefore, that of presenting the woman in a realistic and unbiased way. It deals with the transformation of the woman from her traditional state of unfulfillment to an elated state of fulfillment.


        Zaynab Alkali is a Northern female writer, born in Garkida in the present Adamawa state. Zaynab is a feminist who is known for advocating for the liberation of girl-child and woman in our society through her short stories and novels. She came to the lime light of the Nigerian literary scene with the publication of the long form. Her first novel was The Stillborn established her as a ‘’lone voice from the wilderness’’, an allusion which referred not only to Alkali as the only female writer of significance from Northern Nigeria, but also to this region as a ‘’literary desert.’’ The subsequent publication of The Virtuous Woman placed Alkali at the fore of the now ‘’emergent voices from Northern Nigeria,’’

       Cobwebs & Other Stories, expresses Alkali’s obsession with the experience and problems of women, particularly the inhibiting social and religious norms that stand in the way of women’s self-actualization and wholeness. The dreams of her female characters are dashed by the repressive social conventions of either child-marriage or the patriarchal system or woman seclusion or parent choice of children’s life-partners, or by prejudice against women education and economic independence. As a novelist, her central character and most of all her secondary characters are women which she puts on the fore to pass a message.

      Despite the low status which Islam arrogates to women, Zaynab has full conviction in women self-actualization. This she feels should be achieved within the sacred bounds of matrimony and maternity. Being married with several children, Alkali does not subscribe to female sexual freedom nor single parenthood or to any other feminist scheme that fails to accommodate men and children within the social wellbeing, he recommends women economic empowerment as a cushion for hazards of matrimony.