We all know I am Malala, the face, the cover, the story have made it around the world. In her shadow, a few years earlier, someone else published a harrowing and powerful memoir: 10-year-old Nujood Ali.
The title: I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced.
Nujood’s story is true and so are the characters in the book. At the age of about eight – because birth days and dates are not important – Nujood was married off to a man she has never met. It was arranged by her father. Although not all of her family agrees, they don’t have a say.
Besides, you know we haven’t enough money to feed the whole family. So this will mean one less mouth.
Until then, Nujood was happy leading the only life she knew: in her village, with her family, some friends and for a while, she went to school. And then came her wedding. Not the wedding she had imagined, with pretty hair and a special dress and painted hands, but a simple, quick wedding to a man three times her age.
Hit her even harder. She must listen to you – she’s your wife.
Her husband’s family took her in, she no longer went to school, she had to wear a married woman’s veil, covering everything but her eyes. Until she decided she had enough and made her way into the city, to the court house, to see the judge.
‘I want a divorce!’
Nujood had no idea what to expect when she asked to see a judge, but she certainly didn’t expect all the issues that occurred. At her age, and without a birth certificate or any form of identification, she had no right or way of representation. And without representation, how to go to court? But there as no going back. She had left her husband and could not safely go back home. She simply had to hope someone would take pity and help her get a divorce.
In a few hours, I will be divorced. Divorced! Free again. Without a husband, without that dread of finding myself alone, at nightfall, in the same bedroom with HIM. Without that fear of suffering, over and over, that same torment.
Shada Nasser became her lawyer. She is a feminist and a Yemeni woman like Nujood had never seen before. Her own mother, Shoya, was sixteen when she got married to her father and always to accept her husbands choices, regarding his news wives, their children and their life. Shada is a feminist, her clothes are colourful and she doesn’t have to wear the veil. She is a specialist in human rights and took Nujood Ali’s divorce case on. In 2008, both were named Women of the Year by US Glamour magazine.
I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced, by Nujood Ali
(translated from French by Delphine Minoui and Linda Cloverdale)
First published (in English) 2010
ISBN 13: 9780307589675