Originally posted on the BBC Media Action blog by Chibuike Utaka, Head of Factual, BBC Media Action Nigeria, December 2 2016 - Granny-power hits the airwaves to help improve the health of mothers and babies in northern Nigeria.

An old woman is wearing native dress and a hijab, both fairly common in northern Nigeria. Cast your eyes down though and you'll see a pair of bright red sneakers peeping out from beneath her dress. She opens her mouth, a strong hip hop beat kicks in and she begins to rap in Hausa – the main language of the north.

"When you're lost, and you don't know what to do,

Ask me (mothers and children), and I'll get answers for you."

[Click here to listen to Kakalliya on SoundCloud.]

'Kakalliya' or Kaka for short, is a cool new character in Ya Take Ne Arewa (What's happening Up North), a radio show helping improve maternal and child health in northern Nigeria.

Pillar of the family

Kaka (meaning granny in Hausa) represents a mother-in-law who, in most parts of Nigeria, commands respect and is rarely disobeyed. If you're a fan of Nigerian movies, you'll have a fair idea of the influence of grannies here. Her take on issues that arise between husband and wife is hardly ever questioned. Following the announcement of a pregnancy or birth, for example, many grannies will move into the family home - bringing with them support and expertise.

A granny who lacks knowledge about healthcare could spell doom for a family. Infant mortality rates in the north of the country are higher than the national average. Many of these deaths can be prevented by regular check-ups at the hospital or local clinic, or by ensuring children are fully vaccinated. As pillars of the family, grannies play a pivotal role in promoting both good and bad health practices.

Granny power

This is why we created Kaka. She has deep knowledge of the old ways of doing things - but she's moved with the times. She uses her funky attitude and wisdom to improve health - communicating with people through music, drama and short radio spots.

In one radio spot encouraging parents to have their babies in hospital, Kaka sweeps the floor while in discussion with a man from her neigbourhood. The man whose wife is in labour wants Kaka to assist her to deliver the baby at home. She disagrees and wants the baby to be delivered in the local hospital. "Hospital? For what? My wife is a very strong woman o!" says the husband with pride. Kaka literally 'sweeps' his argument away saying, "If a hen wants to lay eggs, it finds the most suitable place. If an animal can think as carefully as that, why can't you?"

Finish what you have started

Kaka appears in cartoons on Ya Take Ne Arewa's social media channels. It's another way she interacts with younger audiences across northern Nigeria.

In one cartoon, Kaka urges families to 'finish what you have started'. Polio - a serious viral infection - still affects children in northern Nigeria. Her wise words refer to the need to give children multiple doses of the polio vaccine in order to be fully protected.

Binta Ola Katsina, a granny herself, is thrilled to play the character of Kaka. "Grannies play an important role in decision-making processes at home," she says. "I'm optimistic [listeners] will take the health tips I dispense as seriously as the advice they receive from their own grandmothers."

We hope so too. Through granny power, we want to improve health for mothers and children everywhere.

This article was written as part of the BBC's 100 Women season. Join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #100women.

Click here to access this BBC Media Action blog and related links on their work in Nigeria.
Image credit: BBC Media Action

Click here for a summary of Ya Take Ne Arewa.

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