Sunday, March 7, 2010

51: The Self-Empowered Woman - Nujood Ali

Dear Followers,

Today's post is about a story that seems hard to believe, but is (unfortunately) true. In 2008, the parents of a nine year old little girl in Yemen - Nujood Ali - married off their daughter to a deliveryman in his 30s. Her mother wasn't happy, but didn't protest because "In our country it's the men who give the orders, and the women who follow them."

Nujood's father asked the deliveryman (now his son-in-law) not to touch . Nujood until one year after she began menstruating. But as soon as they were married she was forced to quit going to school; Nujood was raped, beaten, and abused by both her husband and mother-in-law.

On April 2, 2008 (two months after her wedding), Nujood escaped, jumped into a taxi and went to the courthouse in search of a judge. When she finally was able to speak to a judge she declared "I want a divorce!"

Nujood is not the only little girl forced into abusive marriages. In Saudi Arabia, an eight year girl was married to a 50 year old man, but Nujood's celebrity is helping to bring those types of abusive situations to the world's attention.

Nicholas Kristof recently wrote in the New York Times that "It's no coincidence that Yemen is ranked dead last in the World Economic Forum's global gender gap index...countries that marginalize women often end up unstable...those countries usually have very high birth rates, and that means a youth bulge in the population. One of the factors that most correlates to social conflict is the proportion of young men ages 15 to 24...those countries also tend to practice polygamy and have higher death rates for girls. That means fewer marriageable women - and more frustrated bachelors to be recruited by extremists."

Nujood is now attending private school full time and hopes to become a lawyer. Kristof argues (based on the stability/educated women ratios found in Pakistan vs. Bangladesh) that educating girls like Nujood reduces terrorism and extremism more effectively than financial military assistance.

Crown Publishing has just released "I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced," which is on sale for $19.00.

Looking forward to your comments...

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