An 11-year-old Yemeni girl has caught the attention of more than 6 million viewers in three days thanks to an online video. In a passionate, three-minute monologue, baby-faced Nada al-Ahdal revealed that she had recently fled her home to escape an arranged marriage.
“What about the innocence of childhood?” she said. “I managed to solve my problem, but some innocent children can’t solve theirs.”
“Don’t they have any compassion? They have killed our dreams. They have killed everything inside us.”
Nada continued on to address the extremes to which some child brides have gone to avoid or flee their marriages, pointing to her deceased 14-year-old aunt who set herself on fire to escape an abusive older husband. Nada’s uncle Abdel Salam, with whom she has lived for eight years, confirmed the young woman’s story and has publicly supported her stance against child marriage.
“When I heard about the groom, I panicked. Nada was not even 11 years old; she was exactly 10 years and 3 months,” he told NOW Lebanon. “I could not allow her to be married off and have her future destroyed […] I did all I could to prevent that marriage.”
A series of interventions on Salaam’s behalf resulted in Nada’s groom recanting the engagement and the Ministry of Interior’s family protection department’s investigating the case. According to Al Jazeera and NOW, Nada’s father has apologized and vowed to wait until she is 17 years old to arrange her marriage. Nada will continue to live with her uncle.
Child marriage has also recently come under fire in Nigeria. The country’s Senate faced a furious deluge of online protests this week after failing to remove a long-standing constitutional provision on citizenship, which indirectly sanctions child marriage.
One senator refuted the claims and said that Nigeria would “never support early marriage.” Yet, several Nigerian organizations have insisted that the legislation essentially legalizes the sexual abuse of underage girls.
Defined as marriage before age 18, child marriage occurs most often in poor, rural communities across many developing countries, reported the International Center for Research on Women. The U.S.-based global research institute also claimed that child brides number more than 67 million worldwide, with some countries marrying off more than half of their girls before they turn 18.
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