I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced
“I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced” by Nujood Ali and Delphine Minoui (2010)
Nujood’s story is recent and both heartbreaking and uplifting. She lives in Yemen, a country without a minimum age for marriage as long as the parents of the young girl consent. Many parents do so for various reasons including family honor (sharaf), poverty and protection. In fact, there is a tribal proverb in Yemen that says “To guarantee a happy marriage, marry a nine-year-old girl.”
Nujood is ten when she is told by her father that she will marry a man three times her age. Her mother opposes the marriage but has no say in a patriarchal society. The law only mandates that the new husband not touch his child-bride until she has reached puberty. Nujood’s groom promises her father that he’ll wait an extra year before consummating the marriage.
This is Nujood’s story and the events following her wedding are best told by her. A comment she makes about her wedding day aptly describes her life for the next year. “No coconut candies, my absolute favorites, the ones that hold the sweet taste of happy days.”
You’ll have to read her story to understand why she later writes “Compared to dreams, reality can be truly cruel. But it can also come up with beautiful surprises.”
Point of Interest: Along a similar line as forced marriages is the issue of “honor killings.” According to the United Nations, 5,000 girls and women are murdered around the world each year for “shaming” the family by acting in ways deemed immodest or disobedient. See here for 17 year-old Rifqa’s story about her family’s response to her becoming a Christian.