“A Week In The Life” is a weekly Zikoko series that explores the working-class struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week.
Today’s subject is Maryam Usman, a Kayan Mata seller from the North. She talks about the challenges that come with her business and more importantly, the need for sex education amongst Northern women.
I wake up around 4 am. I pray until it’s time for fajr. Then, I make breakfast for my children before going back to sleep. My househelp prepares the children for school so I don’t have to worry about that. By 8 am, I leave the house to drop the children in school, after which, I go for my own classes.
I am currently running a Master’s program in Pharmacognosy and Drug development at Ahmadu Bello University. It’s not like I am an unserious person, but school is not really my priority. I don’t even know why I am going to school. I remember last semester when I was about to write a test, and a client called me for a job of N500,000. That’s how I didn’t write the test again. For me, there are priorities and I have to chop life.
I have a 9-12 am class today. I am moody and sleepy throughout the class. By 11 am, I give the lecturer an excuse about my children. I pack my bags and leave for home.
The only reason I even went to the class is because I don’t have anything to do. Thankfully, my husband is not at home, so I don’t have to cook.
I settle down to read a Lindsay Lohan book in peace before the kids return from school.
I run multiple businesses. I sell Ankara, female wearables like bags and clothes. I also sell natural skincare products with a focus on traditional ones. In addition, I offer Gyran jiki services and this is the category that kayan mata falls under.
Kayan Mata literally means “women properties.” The products are natural herbs in everyday use which help to boost various things. For example, there are different things that are considered as Kayan Mata. There are herbs that boost female wetness like watermelon. There are sweeteners like pineapple which helps with a nice aroma. Tiger nuts help to enhance libido. For infection, we use pure henna and cloves in measured quantities to steam the vagina. All these are called Kayan Mata.
Today, a client calls asking for the infection kit. This contains cloves, pure henna, and other ingredients which are a trade secret. I spend the whole day preparing, and properly labelling her package. I take my time because I don’t want to hear stories from anyone. I have a clear no refund policy except in the rare case that you are allergic to any of the ingredients. This is rare because I ask for a list of things people are allergic to before making anything. Also, people who return their orders intact within 24 hours are eligible for a refund.
After I finish her order, I go for a walk with my husband to clear my head. This helps me feel refreshed.
I am very angry today. My problem with people who purchase my products is that they are looking for jazz – sharp sharp. 70% of customers ask for jazz because no one is patient any more. Other sellers lie that their Kayan Mata products have jazz and sell to them, but I don’t. I tell them that these are herbs and they take time, but no one listens.
There is a product I offer known as tighteners. This is for people who want tighter vaginas. It is made up of incense and some other ingredients that help tighten from the outside. You mix these ingredients and use it for a sitz bath. You then drink some herbs along with it to tighten from within.
Three days ago, a client bought tighteners which are supposed to be used for seven days. However, she has been calling my phone. She’s probably calling to ask why she hasn’t seen any miracle.
Today, I wake up to over 20 missed calls from her and I am not even exaggerating. A day after delivering her order, she was now telling me that she’s a new mum and she has vaginal tears. And that she wasted her money and she wants a refund. I am annoyed that she didn’t tell me about being a new mum before I delivered because I would have given her a stronger dose. I am also annoyed that she thinks this is magic and the tightening should just occur immediately. I am not going to refund her because my terms were clear. She withheld information and was somehow expecting magic. Mschew.
I leave the house to get some air. In the compound, my two-year-old is playing in his water pool. He loves to play with water so he’s splashing around – He looks genuinely happy – So, I join him to splash around. Not long after, my husband joins us. By now, all of us are completely soaked and laughing.
This distracts me from the annoying customer for a while.
Some Arewa women come to me for Kayan Mata when what they need is sex education. Most of them act like kunu. For instance, many of them are not comfortable in their body; They don’t know what they like or don’t like. A lot of them lack sex education because their parents didn’t teach them.
Sometimes, I have to teach them sex education before giving them, Kayan Mata. I have a 19-year-old client with two kids who comes with her husband. After a series of questions, I realized that it’s not Kayan Mata she needs but proper sex education. She has no idea that sex is to be enjoyed even after two kids. She lacks the basic knowledge of sex so I have had to teach her what to do and what not to do – how to dress, how to walk, how to initiate sex. Having to teach an adult these things can be tedious.
Today, I am dealing with another client like that. She thinks a lot of things are haram. There was a day I went to her house and her husband came in, and she ran to wear a hijab. As in, to cover up for her own husband. If she can’t sit with her husband without a hijab, then bedroom affairs is zero. So, I have to teach her what to do.
She consulted me because she overheard her husband talking to another girl over the phone. I don’t blame the husband. If I was the husband, I would also talk to other women. Thankfully, we have made progress with the hijab issue. My biggest issue today is that she’s not listening to me. I am advicing her to initiate sex in the evening but she’s refusing. She says she’s not supposed to do it in the evening, that it’s only a nighttime routine. For her, sex has to be in the dark with the lights off.
What is happening? What is she doing? This is frustrating for me because they are newlyweds – The marriage is barely 6 months old.
I am tired, so I leave for home. With the kind of day I have had, I just want to sleep.
Fridays are my best days because I get to do my skincare routine. The first step is to wash my skin. For cleansing, I use Clean and Clear cleanser. I sometimes use the detoxifying one or the brightening one, it depends on my mood. Then, I exfoliate with my Essence by MKJ scrub. After exfoliating, I use Khalta powder as a mask. If I want to have the sunlight glow, I use Curcum.
I naturally don’t have spots on my face, but on the rare occasion that I do, like my period which causes hormonal imbalance, I use Spirulina on the dark spots.
Then I drink a lot of water and mind my business.
If I am doing only facials, it takes me 10 minutes. If it’s the whole body, it takes me 45 minutes.
Today, I do my skincare routine. I make sure I do it in the morning because it’s not good to do skincare routine when the sun is bright. This is because you might have sunburn as the sun tampers with the skin. You don’t want to expose yourself to the sun after refreshing your body.
After finishing my skincare routine, I spend the rest of my day making videos for my Youtube and IGTV channels.
I wake up tired today. It’s not easy juggling motherhood, business, and school together. Sometimes, I need a break. I normally just switch off my phone and travel to either Abuja or Kano when I need to rest.
While I am away, my business doesn’t suffer because I have managers and distributors. They make sure it’s business as usual. I drop my kids and house help with one of my sisters who lives nearby. It’s usually just my husband and I on a trip.
I remember my last trip to Abuja with my husband where something embarrassing happened.
Naturally, I am afraid of elevators and heights but I love wearing heels. On my last trip to Abuja, my husband “bullied” me into using the elevator. As I was entering, I missed a step and almost sprained my ankle, but I didn’t. From that day onward, I decided I had to learn how to use an elevator. After that incident, I stopped being scared of elevators. However, I am still scared of heights.
I spend the rest of the day daydreaming about my next trip. I look forward to making new memories to replace that embarrassing one.
Today, I am thinking about how to move my business forward. I have a long term plan for it, but some customers can be badly behaved. They want to ruin the brand that I am struggling to build. Some customers stress me because they don’t read simple instructions before using products.
There was a client that I gave some herbs for a sitz bath and she went ahead to drink it. I was so scared because she started to complain of serious stomach ache. At some point, I thought she was going to die. I was just so confused because I called her over the phone to please read the instructions before using the product. I am grateful that she survived.
I don’t know why these clients stress me. I am trying to build a brand that is a household name like Coca-cola; a brand that you feel safe using. I want a lot for my business. I want to be a global leader in what I do. I want to be known for the quality of my products. and I also want to be very very rich. I know school will not make me be rich the way I want to be and that’s why I am building this.
Some women come to meet me saying I should give them something that would make their husbands love them more. I tell them to assess the situation – is he a man that wants to be kept? Because no matter what you do, some men don’t want to be kept. So, don’t waste your time. If he wants to be kept, I am usually honest with them because I am trying to build a long term business.
I tell them that they don’t need Kayan Mata.
For a man that wants to be kept, I tell them to just kill him with kindness and prayers.
If you enjoyed reading this, you should definitely read this: Sex Life: Using Kayan Mata Aphrodisiac To Improve My Sex Life
Fajr – The Fajr prayer is the first of the five daily prayers (salah) performed daily by practicing Muslims
Gyran Jiki – Traditional spa.
Act like kunu – To be sluggish or slow.
Haram – forbidden or proscribed by Islamic law.
Arewa – This is a Hausa language term for north, one of the cardinal directions. Its popular usage in contemporary Nigeria sometimes suggests a northern Nigerian.
Check back every Tuesday by 9 am for more “A Week In The Life Of” goodness, and if you would like to be featured or you know anyone who fits the profile, don’t hesitate to reach out. Reach out to me: email@example.com if you want to be featured on this series.