I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced

By: Nujood Ali, Delphine Minoui

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Nujood Ali grew up learning to never question the orders of her father and other male relatives, and as a result, her childhood abruptly ended at roughly ten years of age, when her father negotiated a marriage contract for her with a man three times her age. Even though the contract supposedly stipulated that her husband wasn't to touch her until she reached puberty, Nujood suffered repeated rapes and beatings at his hands until she risked a daring escape and went to the courthouse, seeking an audience with a judge. With the help of a women's rights advocate acting as her attorney and the news media backing her cause, she was able to win a divorce from her husband, a major feat in the conservative country of Yemen and one that inspired other young girls in the Middle East to challenge their marriages as well.


I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced is a fairly p { margin-bottom: 0.1in; line-height: 120% } a:link { so-language: zxx } short book for a memoir, but one that packs a pretty powerful message into its small size, much like the young girl whose story it tells. Nujood Ali became the youngest person in the world to seek and be granted a divorce. Born into a very large family in rural Yemen - who later moved to the capitol - she wasn't even certain of her age at the time these events unfolded. There is no official record of her birth, and with so many children in the family - sixteen to be exact - even her mother couldn't say for sure exactly when she was born. Her age was estimated to be ten when her father negotiated a marriage contract for her with a man three times her age. With the sixteen offspring from his first wife and five more from a second wife, he had trouble keeping a job to take care of them all and claimed it was the only way to make sure she was protected and provided for. Technically the legal age for marriage in Yemen is fifteen, but girls are allowed to be given in marriage at much younger ages if a stipulation is placed in the marriage contract that no sexual contact will occur until puberty. However, once the girl is married there is little to no enforcement to prevent her husband from seeking his conjugal rights.

Nujood was married off without her consent to a man she'd never met even once, and the very next day was shipped off to live with his family back in the small village where she was born. There she was beaten and raped by her husband almost on a daily basis and also abused by her mother-in-law for two months before she was finally able to convince her husband to allow her to visit her family. While back in the capitol, she sought the advice of her father's second wife, who counseled that she should seek out a judge to hear her case. Nujood bravely escaped and went to the courthouse where she insisted upon seeing a judge and refused to leave until she did. She was lucky enough to find three who appeared to be sympathetic toward her plight. One of them took her home for a few days where she was treated well by his family and later he helped her move in with an uncle and get a lawyer, a woman who specialized in human rights cases like Nujood's. With the assistance of her attorney, they successfully petitioned the court for a divorce, a story that quickly spread around the world.

I mentioned earlier that this book is fairly short so there aren't a great deal of details. However, it's enough to paint a horrifying picture of arranged child marriages. It can be very hard for me, as a person with Western sensibilities, to believe that such things as child brides and forced marriages still go on in the world today. But I know they do, and this story proves it. It's so heartbreaking to think about, though. Nujood was merely a little girl who should have been playing with toys, eating sweet treats, dreaming of the pretty dresses in store windows, and attending school - all things she enjoyed doing - not forced to become a wife and service the sexual desires of a much older man. In my opinion, this is completely perverted and nothing short of pedophilia. I'm typically very supportive of respecting most cultural norms, but never when they result in this kind of gross abuse of another human being, especially a child. Some of this can be blamed on ignorance and lax laws, but it still seems like people should have more decency. In any case, Nujood was a very strong young lady who bravely stood up for herself, and in doing so, inspired other girls in similar circumstances to do the same, which brought a much-needed silver lining to her story. However, since these events took place more than a decade ago (2008) and the book was published in 2010, I was curious to know what had become of her since then. When I searched for information about her online, I found that sadly it didn't appear that she'd been able to achieve the dreams that she put forth in this book, nor was she able to save her younger sister from the same fate. Despite that, though, it's still an inspirational story that is very important in that it shines a light on this heinous practice, something that I hope, over time, will be relegated to the dust bin of history.

Note: In my research of what's become of Nujood, I also discovered that it appears her father, who is to blame for all of this, is ironically the one profiting from this book and not Nujood herself. I borrowed the book from the library, but would very much like to own it. If the royalty money was going directly to Nujood, I'd eagerly buy a copy of it to support this young woman. However, since it doesn't seem to be helping her at all, if I do purchase it, I'll probably try to get a second-hand copy and would urge others to do the same, so as to not put any more money into the hands of an abuser.


Nujood Ali @ Wikipedia

Delphine Minoui @ GoodReads