I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced Nujood Ali with Delphine Minoui
Translated by Linda Coverdale
Three Rivers Press
I like to think of myself as a strong, independent woman. However, reading a story like Nujood's, I find myself wondering what I would do if I were in an arranged, abusive marriage. I'd like to think I'd have the courage to step up and walk away, but I also know that a great portion of my strength comes from my family, so I think if I were in an abusive marriage that was arranged by my family, I'm not sure I'd be able to walk away without their support. But I think I'd be able to do it. My family isn't the only community I have, so I think it would be painful and it'd take a truckload of prayer and support, but I'd be able to do it.
Having said that, I'm 33, employed and live in a country where my voice is heard regardless of my gender. When I read the story of Nujood - the ten year old girl in Yemen who walked into a courthouse one day and demanded a divorce - I realized that while I might think I'm strong, I can't imagine the strength and courage this young woman has (when you hear her story, you'll understand why I find it hard to think of her as a little girl). Nujood was only ten years old when her father married her off to a man three times her age and sent her to live with her new in-laws far away from the only family she has ever known. Her new family will not allow her to go to school, and though her new husband promised not to touch her until she was old enough (the accepted age in Yemen is thirteen. THIRTEEN), he forces himself on her regularly. Though she doesn't have much understanding of how the world works, she knows that a judge can help her, so one day she pulls together all her courage and enough money to ride the bus to the courthouse and finds a judge and asks the judge for a divorce. Wow.
The book is a quick read that is expertly written - Delphine Minoui does an amazing job of balancing Nujood's strength and character with the simple fact that she is just a little girl. In one scene she walks into the courthouse demanding a divorce in a country where women are often ignored altogether, and in the next, she is thankful that she has made new friends (the children of one of the judges who agrees to help her) and that she can play with dolls instead of being scared to sleep. You want to feel sorry for Nujood, but you just can't - she doesn't want people to feel sorry for her. She wants people to learn from her story and help others.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in what life is like for women in the Middle East. I've read books about life for women in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and now Yemen. Some of the accounts are terribly frightening and depressing, and some show hope - much like Nujood's. And I know that stories like this are not limited to "other places" - terrible things happen around the world, in every country, every day. Luckily, we have stories like Nujood's that inspire us and remind us that it's important to look out for each other and to do what we know is right - even if the societal norm has been/is contrary.
If you want to read more about Nujood without reading the book, here is Glamour Magazine's article naming Nujood and her lawyer as 2008 Women of the Year.
If hearing stories like Nujood's gets your helping genes racing, I'd recommend Vital Voices as a wonderful organization to support.