I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced

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As I prepare to read Malala’s book (see later posting), I ran across something similar: I Am Nujood, Aged 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali with Delphine Minoui (2010). And since I had a borrowed library copy, I decided to read this first. I am very pleased to have done so. Nujood’s account strengthens Malala’s plight and the plight of MANY young girls in the Mideast who are abused and denied education. As well, Malala’s book will hopefully call attention back to Nujood’s cause and reawaken her efforts and keep the topic of child-marriage in the forefront of the world.

I Am Nujood, Age 10 & Divorced
I Am Nujood, Age 10 & Divorced

Nujood is a Yemani girl who, at the age of 10, was placed in an arranged marriage with a man much older — almost 3 times her tender age. Not only was the marriage promise of remaining sexually inactive until she was of age immediately broken; not only was she was continually physically abused as well as sexually abused; but, let it be known, this is a common practice in middle eastern countries such as Yemen.

Her fascinating story of escape and daring courage to attain legal help to dissolve this situation is a must read. Only through efforts like hers can these practices come to light and hopefully be ridden.  In a culture that continually recounts that ‘Mohammed wed Aisha when she was only 9 years old,’ this does not mean that this is an allowable practice IN ANY CULTURE OR RELIGION, or that this practice may be continued without reprieve. The situation is NOT to be accepted as a given, such as her other mother tells her: “That’s how life is, Nujood!: all women must endure this; we have all gone through the same thing.” (page 96)

Luckily, Nujood is paired with a woman lawyer who defies that culture by working for women’s rights: Shada — beautiful, exposed without the niqha face covering. A wedding that occurred in February 2008 was finally dissolved on April 15, 2008 by a court system that had to do some clever workarounds!

Furthermore, this book also pursues a wider scope of Yemen’s culturally abusive rights in the related events of her sister Mona, her brother Fares, and another pupil from the school she attends.

Nujood has been removed from that marriage, returned to the education she desperately wanted and was pulled from, and is now continuing her future.

“Yes; I’ve made up my mind. When I grow up, I’ll be a lawyer, like Shada, to defend other little girls like me. If I can, I’ll propose that the legal age for marriage be raised to eighteen. Or twenty. Or even twenty-two! I will have to be strong and tenacious. I must learn not to be afraid of looking men right in the eye when I speak to them. In fact, one of these days I’ll have to get up enough courage to tell Aba [her father] that I don’t agree with him when he says that, after all, the Prophet married Aisha when she was only nine years old. Like Shada, I will wear high heels, and I will not cover my face. That niqua — you can’t breath under it! But first things first: I will have to do my homework as well. I must be a good student, so I can hope to go to college and study law. If I work hard, I’ll get there.” (page 162)

Reported in the epilogue are just a few of the after effects of Nujood’s experience:

  • 2 girls, nine and twelve years old, also were able to break the bonds of their marriages
  • “In neighboring Saudi Arabia, one year after Nujood’s historic court case, an eight-year old Saudi girl married off by her father to a man in his fifties successfully sued for divorce — the first time such a thing has happened in that ultraconservative country.” (page 171)

This is a powerful book. And it can be more powerful if we read it and learn  how and why to change practices that should no longer exist (and should never have existed.) Recommend this book and Malala’s to all of your peers. Share it with your children; share it with your spouse/partner.   As Malala pleads in her United Nations speech: “Let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism, and let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. ” Or 2 books for that matter!

Nujood’s co-writer Delphine Minoui says in the epilogue:

Perhaps Nujood does not realize this yet, but she shattered a taboo. The news of her divorce traveled around the world, relayed by many international media, bringing an end to the silence enshrouding a practice that is unfortunately all too widespread in a number other countries: Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Iran, Mail, Pakistan….If her story touches us so deeply, however, it’s also because it impels us to take a good look at ourselves. In the West, it’s fashionable to instinctively bemoan the fate of Muslim women, yet conjugal violence and the practice of child marriage are hardly restricted to the Islamic world. (page 172)

Many factors are involved in this complex Islamic society, but there are none that can possibly sustain the practice of child marriage in the twenty-first-century.

Read/buy this book. Read/buy Malala’s book.

Share this book. Share Malala’s book.

Discuss this book. Discuss Malala’s book.

DO NOT let these topics fall through the cracks within world politics and human rights.

(Please, also see I Am Malala, reviewed latter in this blog.)

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