Kano, Nigeria - She was taken out of primary school at the age of 12 to marry a man in his 40s whom she had never met before. At first, Balaraba Ramat Yakubu enjoyed the presents she received at the wedding and the golden ornaments decorating her new home, but she had no idea what marriage was about.

Today, that illiterate girl who didn't even know how to boil water and who, one year and eight months after the wedding, was finally sent back to her father's house in disgrace, has become one of northern Nigeria's most well-known writers and the first female Hausa-language author to be translated into English.

"If you know where I came from, you'll realise how much I have fought," says the 57-year-old author of nine novels.

Resentment resounds in her voice when she speaks of the end of her first marriage. "It still pains me," she says. "My husband never told me that he loved me, that he wanted me. And then one day someone just came and took me back to my parents.

"He said I was too young. Didn't he know that when he married a child?"

Yakubu used this traumatic experience in her novel Wa Zai Auri Jahila? (Who Would Marry an Ignorant Woman?), published in 1990, in which 13-year-old Abu gets pulled out of school to be married off to a big-bellied man more than three times her age.

But like Yakubu, Abu does not remain a victim: She finds a better life through education.

The book is a statement against child marriage as well as a plea for girls' education, something that was not the norm during Yakubu's childhood in Kano, the largest city in Nigeria's predominantly-Muslim north.

When I write, I feel lifted. I grew up with a strong father whom I could not confront. My books gave me a window to express myself. I write my stories as if I was in your house, or at your neighbours'. Women recognise them. I feel I have an obligation to society to tell those stories that otherwise would not have been told.