World's Youngest Divorcee Takes On Paris and a Real Childhood

Filed under: In The News, Amazing Kids

In an act of courage driven by despair and fear, Nujood Ali walked out on her abusive marriage last February, after suffering daily beatings and rape at the hands of her husband. A sad story, but not a unique story, right?

Wrong. Nujood is only 10 years old. In Paris last week, the girl told reporters about her first snowball fight and the publication of her autobiography, ghostwritten by French newspaper reporter Delphine Minoui, and how she is certain now that she never, ever wants to be married again.

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The young girl shocked citizens of her native Yemen last year after she walked out on her arranged marriage to a motorcycle delivery man more than 30 years her senior. Nujood's father married her off to the man for a dowry of $250, and for two months she begged her husband every day to return her to her family.

He refused, and so Nujood took matters into her own hands. One afternoon when her mother sent her on an errand, Nujood took a bus into the crowded capital city of Sanaa. She then hailed a taxi to the courthouse. Not knowing what else to do, she sat on a bench outside a courtroom all day, until a judge noticed her lingering in the empty hallway. He asked what she needed, and the girl said simply, "I came for a divorce."Horrified by the details Nujood revealed, the judge took her home to play with his own 8-year-old daughter. Two days later, he granted her a divorce, making her (at least at that time) the world's youngest divorcée. Her ordeal prompted Yemen's lawmakers to increase the age of consent for marriage from 15 to 18.

Two girls, ages 9 and 12, have since sued for divorce. But Nujood's influence is extending far beyond the borders of her homeland; an 8-year-old Saudi Arabian girl recently sued for divorce and won. Nujood hopes to inspire a broad movement of girls to fight their child marriages, adding that "they should not be scared of their fathers or husbands."

When asked what she plans for the years ahead, she answered: "I want to be a lawyer." She added that she "no longer thinks about marriage" and has no desire to wed again.

Nujood also hopes to advocate for women's rights in Yemen, and her visit to Paris included a meeting with France's Human Rights Minister, Rama Yada, and Urban Affairs Minister Fadela Amara, with whom she discussed the problem of child marriage.

How tragic is it that this advice is coming from the mouth of a girl who has yet to reach age 12? Here in the United States we talk about protracted adolescence and the boomerang generation, while young girls around the world are forced to deal with situations most adults cannot handle.

And Nujood's ordeal isn't over, despite the glamorous outcome of her tale. She still risks retribution for her courageous act from the male members of her family, and both her father and her ex-husband were released from custody only 10 days after being arrested.

Dad says he only set the marriage up to protect his daughter from violence on the streets, but I find that hard to swallow, particularly considering the violence she suffered at the hands of her husband. And just where was her mother in all of this?

The whole story is despicable. My own daughter is just six years younger than Nujood. How could any parent even consider such a thing? Should cultural traditions that harm children, no matter how ingrained, be eradicated? What do you think?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.