“I’m a simple village girl who has always obeyed the orders of my father and brothers. Since forever, I have learned to say yes to everything. Today I have decided to say no.”
The title I Am Nujood: Age 10 and Divorced itself inevitably gained attention from whoever read it. Sure, now Nujood has passed the age of 10 since it was originally published in 2009, and now she has reached her teenage years. Now, who is Nujood? She is the youngest divorcee in the modern history, reported her ex-husband’s abuse two months after the marriage. She was forced to marry a man aged three times hers. After she won the case, she traveled to NYC with her attorney, Shada Nasser, and got Woman of the Year from Glamour in 2008.
Her journey, however, was a winding road. She came from a big nuclear family, with two older sisters and brothers and one younger sister. Her father married another woman, and from her, she had five step-siblings. Nujood came from a village named Khardji, hundreds miles away from Sana’a, the capital city of Yemen.
Because her father had a confrontation with his male companions, her family were compelled to move. They ended up living in a slum area in Sana’a. Her older sister, Mona, had married off and had lived with her own family. On the other hand, Nujood’s father barely made money as he was only a street sweeper.
Nujood’s marriage arrangement happened so quickly. Her father had a conversation with one of his friends who was three times her age in one night and the marriage was decided all of a sudden. Nujood objected the marriage, but her father insisted as the man promised he wouldn’t touch Nujood until she reached puberty. Also, they were not accustomed to women arguing men in their culture, so Nujood’s voice was not heard completely. Even Nujood’s mother, though she didn’t like the idea herself, couldn’t do anything because it was women’s obligation to follow the men’s order as they didn’t accept argumentation with women.
“One less mouth,” her father said. Nujood felt that she was a property that could have been sold to someone she knew nothing about. Long story short, Nujood was married off and brought back to her village Khardji with her husband while her family accepted 750 dollars as a dowry.
“To guarantee a happy marriage, marry a nine-year-old girl.” – tribal proverb
In fact, Nujood didn’t feel a slight happiness in her marriage. She encountered abuse from her husband and was forced to do sexual interaction with the man she even disgusted with.
I’ve read some of its reviews on Goodreads, and most of it deplored how Nujood’s voice was drowned by the co-author. Some of them also suspected that she only orally narrated the story as she was preliterate and left school when she was married off. I partly agree with them because the book, though it is very thin and fast-paced, contains some of advanced and fancy words. Considering Nujood herself didn’t speak English, it was obvious that she didn’t write the book. However, I don’t regret reading it, despite its debate on how disappointed the readers were because of how the story was delivered (not the story itself). At the extreme point, some said that she was exploited with her story, but I do not agree because this is something we need to know and learn about.
Yes, I agree that this book is very fast-reading. Even sometimes I feel that there were a lot of details were left off. Nujood only married for only two months before she filed her divorce, but I believe that there were lots of things happened in between. Perhaps they were stories she didn’t want to tell, and that’s OK. As for filing her divorce and reporting abuse took guts, I feel proud that she was brave enough to speak up and demand for her rights as a child.
Nujood was very fortunate because she met judges and an attorney that would like to help her, until she won the case and be the youngest divorcee. However, I know that this is not a title you can be proud of. I find it ironic because I personally do not want she’s well known as the youngest divorcee. She’s young and brave and I want she’s known as the girl who struggles to gain her rights, and yes, she did it! Nujood’s case even made the Yemeni parliament passed a new law that says the legal age for marriage is seventeen.
“A divorce party–that’s really better than a wedding party!”
Featured image from here.