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INTERVIEW: My poems aren’t born on sterile sheets of paper…- Maryam Hassan Bukar

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Read Time:11 Minute, 7 Second

Maryam Hassan Bukar, A Poet-PanAfrican-filmmaker, speaks on her in-depth journey in art and poetry, her performance at COP 28 , her Appearance at the UNGA, and many more

QUESTION: AlhanIslam, your performance at COP 28 on climate change was exceptionally
powerful. In what ways do you believe art and poetry can influence climate
action on a global scale?
MARYAM HASSAN BUKAR: Alhanislam is more than a name; it’s a song resonating across generations, urging us to
hear the stories that matter. At COP28, I carried this melody, not just to sing, but to orchestrate a
clarion call of voices speaking on behalf of a silent crisis: neglected tropical diseases. Like
forgotten notes in a dusty score, these illnesses fester in the last mile, stealing lives and futures.
But my performance wasn’t a lament; it was a crescendo, a call to action that resonated within
the very walls of power. I echoed the voices of the unseen, the uncured, and challenged world
leaders where I said :
“Let us declare continuity and commitment as allies and while we deliberate on building the
things that will outlive us let us not neglect the things that will help us live !”
And so I dare say art and poetry can influence climate action on a global scale in several potent
Raising awareness and shifting narratives, Inspiring action and collective change,Influencing
policy and decision-making. Art is not just adornment; it’s the bridge between awareness and
action. By harnessing their unique ability to connect with hearts and minds, they can play a
crucial role in mobilizing individuals, communities, and even nations to address this global
I am grateful to HRH Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the Reaching the Last Mile forum
for amplifying this message and the invitation.
QUESTION : Congratulations on your award (sustainable trade africa award) in Dubai! What
does this recognition mean to you personally, and how do you see it impacting
your future endeavours and advocacy work?
Maryam Hassan Bukar : This recognition isn’t just for me; it’s a testament to the unwavering support of my
phenomenal team. I wouldn’t be here without them, especially my late mother; “Hauwa maina”
and for their dedication, I am immensely grateful. Together, we’ve come this far, proving that art
can be a catalyst for change. This award shines a spotlight on the importance of our work, and it
fuels our fire to keep pushing boundaries.
This award empowers us to create even bigger waves of positive change with every poem I
write, every story I tell, I strive to contribute to the Global Goals, to champion voices often
unheard, Africa is indeed rising, and my work will continue to be its vibrant heartbeat, echoing a
message of hope and possibility. A saner world isn’t just a dream.
QUESTION . Your appearance at the UNGA was remarkable. Could you share the story
behind how you secured this opportunity and the message you aimed to convey
on such a prominent platform? What other global voices and creatives did you
meet there?
Maryam Hassan Bukar : Speaking on a panel at the UNGA wasn’t just a privilege; it was a chance to amplify my
voice for peace on a global stage. This journey began not with applause, but with the quiet
power of words.It all began with ‘Peace Begins with Me,’ a global poetry collaboration where I
co-championed and curated poems alongside a Congolese poet, a fellow peacekeeper on the
invitation of the UN peacekeeping.
We poured our hearts into verses that echoed a universal yearning for harmony, and it was an
immense honor to see lines from my own poem brought to life by the voices of A-list actors like
Michael Douglas and Nancy Ajram, and the vibrant stars of Bollywood.”
But these verses weren’t mere words; they were born from the soil of my own experiences.
Hailing from Borno State, North eastern part of Nigeria, I witnessed the scars of violence and
the heartbreak of displacement. Whilst schooling in the Northwest I witnessed the echoes of
religious conflicts, electoral unrest and banditry.
These experiences ignited a passion within me, leading me to champion the
#saynotoelectoralviolence campaign during the 2023 elections, supported by the canadian high
commission reaching over 2m people and dedicate my art to building bridges of understanding.”
“So, stepping onto the UNGA panel wasn’t just about advocating for peace; it was about sharing
a journey. It was about showcasing how a whisper of poetry can transform into a global chorus,
how personal pain can pave the way for collective healing, and how the seeds of peace sown in
local communities can blossom on the world stage. ‘Peace Begins with Me’ wasn’t just a slogan;
it was the compass that guided me to the UNGA, and beyond, it’s the torch I carry, illuminating
the path towards a future where violence fades and harmony sings.
I met amazing creatives, seasoned journalists, A-list stars, diplomats and like micheal douglas,
Dr Oby Ezekwesilie, Kayode akintemi, fridda maria, Danai Gurira to mention afew.
QUESTION: Being inducted into the Gates Foundation Goalkeepers community is great feat.
What specific goals or initiatives do you hope to contribute to this platform?

Maryam Hassan Bukar: Imagine holding a kaleidoscope, twisting it to see how every shard catches the light. That’s my work – a million angles reflecting different struggles, different hopes. like when I co-led a
Change.Org campaign with the Foreign Ministry, bridging information gaps during Sudan’s
unrest and facilitating the safe return of trapped Nigerian students. The African Union? Forget
poems, think me whispering truth bombs about refugees into their ears. Every word a spark,
urging them to fan the flames of support. That’s what the Goals mean to me. Not numbers on a
board, but a map leading us out of the dark. Each one a step towards a world where healthcare
isn’t a privilege, where justice isn’t a rusty lock, and where refugees find a home beyond the
storm. So joining the Goalkeepers isn’t just about me, it’s about adding my voice to this choir of
changemakers, harmonizing our struggles into a song that shakes the world awake. Let’s make
this future a reality, one verse, one step, one Goal at a time.
The major initiative I will be leading under this platform has to do with Goal 3, and it won’t
remain a secret for long.
QUESTION: As a passionate activist and leader in your own sphere, what vision do you hold
for Nigeria’s future, especially concerning issues like youth engagement, social
empowerment and gender-based concerns?

Maryam Hassan Bukar: Nigeria is but a land, the people make it a country and it is time we the people hold ourselves
accountable, Nigeria is a gift that keeps giving, may we grow to be worthy of her, Hoping
somehow someday we understand the difference between patriotism and politicking.
I dream of a Nigeria where every individual, regardless of tribe, religion, or gender, dances to
the beat of equality. From the bustling streets of Lagos to the quiet villages in the north, justice
shouldn’t be a luxury, it should be the air we breathe. Imagine a society where a woman’s
ambition isn’t stifled by discrimination, where her education isn’t a privilege, but a birthright.
I envision classrooms pulsating with innovation, where STEM labs buzz with curious minds and
community centers thrum with the energy of young changemakers. And when it comes to
gender-based concerns, silence isn’t an option. My vision is a Nigeria where the whispers of
survivors become roars of defiance.
Imagine safe spaces for victims, justice systems that listen, and communities that stand
shoulder-to-shoulder against every form of abuse. Let’s rewrite the narrative, not just for women,
but for all who’ve been silenced, and create a world where equality resonates in every
This future isn’t a pipe dream, it’s a clarion call to action. It’s in the hands of every Nigerian,
every leader, every artist to pick up their instrument and join the orchestra. I, for one, will keep
amplifying voices, and using my art as a bridge between dreams and reality. Together, we can
do this!
QUESTION : Your poetic performances have been captivating, can you walk us through your
creative process when crafting a poem and how your works aim to provoke societal

Maryam Hassan Bukar : My poems aren’t born on sterile sheets of paper; they’re birthed from the pulse of the streets,
injustices, and the quiet whispers of resilience in the face of it all. The process often starts with a
spark – a news snippet, a conversation overheard, a tear glistening in a stranger’s eye. It ignites
a fire within me, a burning need to give voice to the voiceless, to weave words that illuminate
the hidden corners of our world.
Then comes the gathering. I don’t just write; I collect. Snippets of those overheard
conversations, snatches of melodies, the scent of rain on concrete – it all becomes fodder for
the poem’s soul. I interview activists, immerse myself in research, and listen with every fiber of
my being to the stories that beg to be told. I wrestle with metaphors, dance with rhythm, and
chisel away at syllables until each line culminates with the truth at its core. It’s a messy,
exhilarating process, fueled by caffeine, sugar and late-night whispers to the Muse.
But the true magic lies in the intention. My poems aren’t mere ornaments; they’re sonic
screwdrivers, aiming to dismantle the constructs of inequality, prejudice, and apathy. I want my
lines to pierce complacency, to ignite conversations that crackle with the desire for change. I
want my verses to become mirrors reflecting the injustices we often conveniently ignore, and my
rhymes, a call to action, urging us to step out of the shadows and into the light.
It’s not always easy. Sometimes, my poems become weapons aimed at my own comfort, my
own biases. But the discomfort is a necessary fire-cleansing, a refining process that ensures my
voice rings true, even when it hurts. Because, ultimately, that’s what my poetry aspires to be – a
bridge between understanding and action, a rallying cry for a more just, equitable world. It’s not
about applause or accolades; it’s about sparking a revolution, one verse, one heart, one soul at
a time.

QUESTION: With your True My Voice platform, what role do you see Nigerian youths playing in
shaping the country’s leadership landscape, and how does your platform empower
them to do so?
Maryam Hassan Bukar: True My Voice isn’t just a platform, it’s a revolution in the making. We provide young Nigerians
with the tools and resources they need to amplify their voices and hold their leaders
accountable. Imagine civic education workshops buzzing with passionate discussions, debate
clubs echoing with bold ideas, and social media campaigns erupting with demands for change.
True My Voice ignites this digital campfire, providing the fuel and the forum for their ideas to
spread like wildfire.
We don’t spoon-feed solutions; we equip them with the tools to find their own. Media literacy
workshops dissect political rhetoric, exposing misinformation and empowering critical thinking.
Leadership training programs nurture young changemakers, honing their skills in advocacy,
policy analysis, and community mobilization. True My Voice doesn’t just hand them the
microphone; it teaches them how to use it effectively, ensuring their voices reach the ears that
But it’s not all about shouting slogans from rooftops. True My Voice fosters collaborative action.
We connect young people with NGOs, government officials, and private sector leaders, building
bridges where walls once stood. Imagine hackathons buzzing with diverse minds united to solve
local problems, mentorship programs pairing seasoned activists with eager newcomers, and
community clean-up drives fueled by the collective spirit of change. True My Voice isn’t just
about raising awareness; it’s about driving tangible results, brick by brick.
True My Voice is a celebration of Nigerian youth. It’s about dismantling the myth that youth are
the future; they are the present: active, engaged, and ready to redefine what it means to lead in
QUESTION: Your advocacy against violence has gained significant attention. How do you
measure the impact of your work in raising awareness and effecting tangible change in
communities affected by these issues?
Maryam Hassan Bukar: I use a holistic approach to measuring impact, combining quantitative data with qualitative
stories and observations. Take, for instance, a man from my hometown, scarred by the cycle of
domestic violence. He wrote to me, confessing that it was my poem, a stark portrayal of abuse,
that awakened him. He stopped hitting his wife. This gives me a more complete picture of how
my advocacy is making a difference, both in the immediate communities and in the broader
Ultimately, the most rewarding measures of impact are the voices of those who tell me my work
helped them find healing, inspired them to speak out, or gave them the courage to build a safer
future for themselves and their communities. That, to me, is the truest testament to the power of
art and advocacy in tackling violence.

QUESTIONS: Share a secret, not-so-known fact or quirk about yourself.
Maryam Hassan Bukar: I was a young dancer who would win prizes at competitions, even used to belong to a dance
crew back in the days lol.

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