The heading of this blog post is taken from the title of an autobiography of Nujood Ali from Yemen, who was Glamour magazine’s Woman of the Year in 2008. Imagining a married, let alone divorced ten year old, is hard in most countries, yet still child marriage is a reality in much of the world.
Child marriage has received heightened attention in recent years (ICRW 2011) but continues to be a problem in Yemen and worldwide. A study on early marriage carried out in 2008 by the Gender Development Research and Studies Centre at Sana’a University in Yemen found that 52.1 percent of girls are under 18 when they were married, compared with 6.7 percent of boys. As a 2011 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report points out, this phenomenon is not unique to Yemen. Worldwide, more than 51 million girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are married. A 2012 report from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) provides evidence that nearly one in every four girls aged 15 to 19 years in the developing world (excluding China) is currently married or in union.
Child marriage brings with it many problems but the most acute is perhaps childbearing. During pregnancy, a young mother competes with her baby for essential nutrients. Malnutrition is a common problem in Yemen and child pregnancy exacerbates the situation, ultimately depriving both the mother and child. Pregnancy is the leading cause of death worldwide for women ages 15 to 19, according to the International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW).