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What would one do if faced with stressful encounters of forced and non-working marriage? Quitting the marriage, better known as divorce in the marriage institution, is the best answer for majority of the victims of such a situation. Imagine being exposed to mistreatments by an in-law mother at a tender age of 10! In I am, Nujood, Age 10 and divorced, Nujood gives a personal narration of an abused marriage, which she found herself into after a strong force by her parents to do so.
Poverty is perhaps one of the contributing factors forcing parents in rural Yemen to curtail their young girl’s education to marry them to men three times their senior. As the paper points out, the women characters employed in the book ‘I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced’ stand out as no more than commodities and displays of honor.
Women as objects of honor
Conferment of honor to women comprises the major theme of the book. In Nujood’s world, one sees women as objects that could bring honor reducing financial challenges to their families perhaps by reducing the burden on parents since marrying a girl off reduces the number of mouths to feed. Acts such early marriage need not be condoned. It seems that women freedom of choice has been much eroded.
Nujood says, “I’m a simple 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, and Minoui 41). Surprisingly, sufficient women’s freedom denial to make their own decisions is even propagated by their brothers who are perhaps seen as more important in the society.
Take for instance the Nujood’s predicament; she is battered by her ‘husband’ and treated inappropriately by her in-law mother though she is supposed to bring honor in her family: as her father anticipates. It is intriguing to contemplate the ability of women to bring forth societal honor by depriving them off their freedom of choice and cutting short their efforts to pursue their long life dreams.
Nujood is evidently a brilliant woman. In the light of provisions of equal rights to both genders, what could have made Nujood a better source of honor? Is it marrying her off or providing her with an opportunity to pursue education early, enough to be what she is now?
In the book, Nujood narrates how she utilized the better part of her time crying while hiding in a corner since she cannot tolerate her husband’s marital rape and her in-law mother’s beatings. She has no permission to play with other kids. While she complained about it, the response is that such permission cannot be granted since it cannot give a good reflection of the marital family’s image. Consequently, one could not perceive the family with honor.
Surprisingly, the motherly concern seems to depend on the instincts well shaped by the society. This fact is well illustrated by the fact that, when Nujood complains about the marital home acts of mistreatment, her real mother responds to her that “That’s how life is, Nujood: all women must endure this; we have all gone through the same thing” (Nujood, and Minoui 67).
According to the cultural norms, freeing marriage for a woman’s paternal home can have a negative repercussion to the family’s honor before the eyes of the society. No matter the magnitude of problems and challenges in the marital home, a woman has to learn to endure and live up with them.
Otherwise, she will deprive the family and consequently the society of the respect based on the virtual presence of the woman. Nujood is such an object. She has to maintain this family attribute despite the evident vicissitudes. However, since she is determined to seek for her freedom and honor no matter whether it meant failing to meet the societal expectations or not, she chooses to seek for a courthouse shelter in the capital of Yemen. She opts to claim her due honor as a woman.
Opposed to the media’s perception, that the situation is such as the one Nujood found herself engulfed in is being fostered by the Yemeni Islamic practices, in I am, Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced, Nujood makes it frankly clear that the practices can be routed to the Yemeni ideas of male dominance and honor coupled with women discriminating tribal cultures.
Her family’s faith alongside with the one she personally subscribes to remain well interwoven throughout the Nujood’s story bringing out clearly their various theological differences. Nujood eyes the person who took up her case and laments, “Like Shada, I will wear high heels, and I will not cover my face” (Nujood, and Minoui 105). More often, culture as well as the failure to subscribe to a given religion results to an unfair treatment of women in comparison to their male counterparts.
To Nujood, the perception that she is to deliver honor to both families by not playing like other children her age or her mother’s demand that she sticks to the marital home irrespective of her encounters is more of societal making through its cultural norms. On her part, she is neither remorseful nor resentful about her subscription to Islam faith. Furthermore, she does not attribute the long endured rights abuse to Islam. All she has is an incredibly immense problem with the practices of the cultural system of her land.
Accordingly, justice to women appears to be something not well inculcated in the Nujood’s world. Despite giving her story concisely of how she sorts to say enough to battery marriage and thus opt for a divorce, one can enormously empathize with her predicament.
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This is why the reader also encounters introductions of good men: lawyers and judges, who cling on the Nujood’s side, holding the view that Nujood should receive her due honor rather than the evident marital affliction she encounters, which on the other hand have left her disrespected.
Unfortunately, since women are perceived as objects of honor conferment and that the legal proceeding are conducted in an environment dominated by male prominence stereotypes, these good men do not have the foundation to peg their decisions to assist her. However, with the aid of activist lawyer and international press, she manages to divorce her aged husband finding her way back home where she can enjoy her full dignity as a woman rather than just a thing/commodity.
Women, like Nujood, who the society views as tools of bringing honor in their families need to be given an ardent hearing. Besides the respect that the society wishes to get from women, they too deserve a good share of it. Such concerns have been voiced elsewhere across the globe.
I am Nujood, Age 10 and divorced serves as a revelation by shedding light about the malpractice of lifting off children rights: something that has resulted to the destruction of lives of children for many years. In Yemen, Nujood sets path for other children to rise up against perception of women as objects of honor and commodities of trade particularly by becoming the first Yemen bride child to win a divorce court case.
By borrowing from Nujood’s enthusiastic steps to fight for her rightful position, several divorce bride cases in Middle East states including Yemen have been granted followed by increased campaign for enforcement of underage marriage laws. In fact, she has been named the 2008 Glamour woman of the year and consequently profiled in New York Times, Time magazine and Los Angeles Times.
Nujood, Ali, and Minoui, Delphine. I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced. Trans. Coverdale, Linda. New York: Broadway, 2010.