Recently, a compelling story about the perils of early marriage caught our attention. In a book called I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced, Yemini Nujood Muhammed Nasser tells her own courageous story about her fight to end her forced marriage to a 30-year-old man.

Named 2008 woman of the year by Glamour magazine, Nujood recounts her family’s move from a rural village to a large metropolitan area, where her parents were unable to afford the high cost of living or care for her and her 16 siblings. Nujood and her siblings had begun begging in the streets when her father received a proposition: a man from his home village asked to marry one of his daughters. He accepted.  In February 2008, Nujood, the oldest single daughter, was married in exchange for the equivalent of US$750.

As is common for child brides, Nujood was immediately taken out of school, and she became isolated from friends and family when she moved to her husband’s village several hours away. Nujood was treated poorly by her new mother-in-law and was repeatedly raped by her husband. Unfortunately, most of Nujood’s family did not sympathize with her plight. They said it was her duty as a wife to obey her new husband and that divorce would dishonor her family. However, encouraged by her father’s second wife, Nujood decided she would go through the court system to demand a divorce. Alone and afraid, she made her way to the courthouse, approached the judge, and requested permission to divorce her husband. Over time, with help from a few sympathetic judges and a women’s rights activist lawyer, Nujood’s divorce was granted. Her story of bravery and determination has become an international sensation and serves as a symbol of hope for all victims of child marriage. 

Read the most recent YouthLens brief, Addressing Early Marriage of Young and Adolescent Girls, to learn about some successful approaches for delaying marriage.