“I’m not an item for sale…I’m a human being and I would rather die than get married at this age.” Those are the words of 11-year old Nada al-Ahdal of Yemen.
Nada was forced to flee from her parents to escape an arranged marriage negotiated by them for profit. Unfortunately, Nada’s case is just one example in a much larger phenomenon.
Child marriage is a frequent occurrence throughout the developing world. Sometimes the motivation is the belief an early marriage is the best way to secure the young girl’s future while other times the girls are perceived as commodities for sale. Regardless of the personal motivation in individual cases, poverty is almost always the driving factor.
Nada was nearly married off once before until her uncle intervened on her behalf. Many girls are not so fortunate. Nada’s maternal aunt was forced into a child marriage that ended by her self-immolation. In 2008, Nujood Ali, a ten year-old Yemeni girl, attracted international attention when she filed for divorce from her husband — she was ten.
Child marriages pose great risk to young girls’ physical and mental health. The main cause of death of girls in the developing world between ages 15-19 is complications from pregnancy or child birth. Child marriages prevent young girls from continuing their education, from fully developing their own identity and locks them into the cycle of poverty.
Despite the fact the U.N. declares child marriage practices a human right violation, it is estimated that nearly 40 percent of young girls in South Asia and Africa are forced into early marriages. Ensuring girls’ right to education is a proven method for reducing child marriages. Unfortunately, in Yemen only about 30 percent of girls make it through secondary education.
Nada and Nujood demonstrated remarkable courage and the hope is their stories will inspire courage in other young girls. However, there is a need for systematic protections against forced early marriages. Promoting girls’ education may be the first step.
Yemeni girl flees parents to escape forced marriages; Lindy Alexander; July, 25, 2013.
Video: Yemeni Girl’s Please Against Child Marriage; Information Nigeria, July 26, 2013.
Yemeni girl from YouTube wants education, not marriage; CNN, July 31, 2013.
Check out these websites: