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LOOKING FORARD: Nujood Ali, Yemen

Today Nujood Ali passes her time the way every 13-year-old girl should. She goes to school each day and spends each night at home with her parents and siblings. But having a childhood isn't something Nujood takes for granted. It's a right she fought hard for.

Three years ago, Nujood was forced by her parents to marry a man in his 30s. The man took her far away from her village in Yemen, far away from her beloved sisters. He promised Nujood's father that he would not try to have sexual relations with her until one year after she had reached puberty. He broke the promise immediately and forced himself on her on their wedding night. Nujood was 10.

Her agony was compounded when her husband began beating her. Nujood pleaded with her mother-in-law, but she offered no help. In fact, she urged him to hit her even harder.

But Nujood would not surrender to what others fated for her. In an act of extraordinary courage, Nujood spent her bread money on a taxi ride to a courthouse in Yemen's capital, Sana'a. She waited at the courthouse until she found a judge who would hear her plea for a divorce. Though child marriage is illegal in Yemen, no one could recall a young girl standing up for her own rights like Nujood did.

When word of her courageous defiance spread, a prominent Yemeni lawyer took her case and prevailed in court. That led to the simple but shocking title of Nujood's 2010 memoir: "I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced."

In the wake of international publicity generated by Nujood's plight, Yemen's legal system has stepped up enforcement of its child labor laws. The case has had a ripple effect throughout the Middle East, too. In Saudi Arabia, an eight-year-old girl married to a man in his 50s was granted a divorce thanks to the awareness prompted by Nujood's case.

Nujood, as it turns out, didn't just rescue herself. She inspired countless others to do the same.


I'm a single 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.

- Nujood Ali

SOURCES: 1 Ali, Nujood, "I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced," Random House, 2010. 2 Kristof, Nick, New York Times, March 4, 2010. 3 Santha, K.G., et al, "Associations between Early Marriage and Young Women’s Marital and Reproductive Health Outcomes: Evidence from India," International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, Vol. 36 No. 3, September 2010. Photo Credit: © Adam Reynolds/Corbis.

© Adam Reynolds/Corbis