Saturday, April 10, 2010

Nujood, divorced

I am always amazed by how misleading the term Middle East is: there are vast sociocultural differences from country to country and even from region to region within the same country. The most immediately perceived common thread is the religion of Islam but it would be a mistake to draw any conclusions about a country without studying its history, political structure, geography, languages, etc.

That being said, I knew nothing of it and still know nothing about Yemen except what a little girl and her biographer, Delphine Minoui, have told me in I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced: men are the primary decision makers in family matters that pertain to the perception of honour; women are veiled and wear niqab, are not secluded but segregated according to the laws that seem to govern the protection of male honour (women appearing in public alone, men and women who are not related spending unchaperoned time together, etc.) There is abject poverty, especially in but not limited to the rural villages. Women may be educated. Child marriage is more common in the rural parts of Yemen.

Anyway, Nujood -- a ten-year-old girl in a suburb of Sana'a (Yemen's capital) whose father gives her in marriage to a man three times her age.  She manages to escape her abuser and fights for a divorce through the court system.  See how ridiculously simple that sounds when you read it?  She pushes back against the mores and laws that govern her behaviour and she is aware that she is doing so.  What she does not anticipate is the media coverage of her actions and the fallout of such.

But as a result of her bravery, other children since have sought and obtained divorces in Yemen -- and in Saudi Arabia, no less.  She is one of Glamour magazine's 2008 Women of the Year recipients, alongside Hilary Clinton.  

In the original CNN article of July 2008, she speaks of wanting to help raise the legal marriage age of women in Yemen.  But in August 2009, in a follow-up story, Paula Newton of CNN writes of a changed Nujood:

We find her at the family's two-room house in an impoverished suburb of the city where Nujood is angry, combative and yelling. Tension surrounds the home like a noose . . .

[S]he thought the divorce would be the end of her struggle and she's still angry that it turned out to be just the beginning.

and the young girl's own words:

'There is no change at all since going on television. I hoped there was someone to help us, but we didn't find anyone to help us. It hasn't changed a thing. They said they were going to help me and no one has helped me. I wish I had never spoken to the media,' Nujood says bitterly.

I am moved by the reported change in her disposition. Disillusionment and disappointment.  I feel protective as if this should be the realm of adults but it is not and, as if this is not sad enough, this month brings another story of a child bride -- also from Yemen -- and this one did not survive.

But Nujood accomplished something and I am glad that I read her story.


There are countless articles and reviews. Child marriage is a daunting subject that encompasses many countries. Where would you start if you wanted to learn more?


Child Brides: The Problem of Early, Forced Marriage
Unicef's Innoenti Research, Italy --  Early Marriage: Child Spouses (pdf)
Glamour Magazine's Women of the Year


  1. Hey there, I came across your blog through BlogExposion and your blog kinda draws me in. I can see you read a lot. Pardon my curiosity, you're only 10? I didn't finish reading the whole story but how can you be divorced at such young age? In which country are you staying at the moment?

  2. Ops, sorry. I just realised that was one of the books that you've just finish reading. How embarrasing.

  3. Anonymous2:53 AM


    I am the author of Paramedic to the Prince. Please let me know how you liked the book, since you seem to have read many books about the middle east.

    Patrick Tom Notestine