I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced : the title of the book says it all. The book is the autobiography of Nujood Ali, a Yemeni third grader, divorcee, international human rights activist, and winner of Glamour Magazine’s Woman of the Year award. That’s a pretty impressive resume for someone who is still years away from a driver’s license. But if there is one thing Nujood has proved in her life, it’s that she’s not your average kid.
When Nujood was merely 10 years old, well before the age of puberty, her family forced her to marry a man in his 30s. At her wedding, Nujood sobbed in the corner,forced of what would happen to her and miserable at the thought of leaving her family to live with a stranger. The wedding night was even worse. Despite a promise that Nujood’s husband made to her father not to have sex with her until she started menstruating, he forced himself on her the very first night they were married. After that, he forced her to drop out of school. He also began physically and emotionally abusing her regularly, and it wasn’t too long before Nujood had had enough.
She had heard about divorce, and had heard that judges were the ones with the ability to grant a divorce. So with little idea of where she was going, she snuck away from her husband, jumped into the back of a taxi, and asked to be driven to the nearest courthouse. Once there, she demanded to speak to a judge — any judge. When one finally emerged, imagine his surprise to see a tiny, determined child standing before him firmly stating, “I want a divorce!”
Fortunately, a famous Yemeni lawyer heard about Nujood’s pleas for help, and agreed to take the case. Together, these two women fought a legal system in which almost half of girls are married before they are legal adults, and where forced marriages are unspeakably common. In April 2008, they won Nujood a divorce — unprecedented for a girl like her in Yemen. Since her story became internationally known, Nujood has inspired other former child brides to demand divorces from their husbands.
I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced documents not only a powerful story of the triumph of the human spirit and the will of one powerful girl, but it also documents what has become the nascent stages of a true social movement. Increasingly, both international and local attention is being turned to countries like Yemen, where young girls are routinely sold and forced into marriages. The argument of previous decades that child marriage is a “cultural phenomenon” and that we must ignore the rape and abuse of children in places like Yemen in order to respect their culture is fading. And thanks to Nujood, we might all soon see a day when all women in Yemen and the rest of the world choose if, when, and to whom they want to get married.
Photo credit: Koshyk