While most preteens are Snapchatting, watching TV, and avoiding doing their homework, children forced into marriages are denied their youth completely and endure an ordeal beyond comprehension. This week, an exceptionally brave 11-year-old named Nada al-Ahdal is speaking out to bring attention to Yemen’s well-documented practice of child marriages.
National Yemen is reporting that Nada fled from an arranged marriage to a much older man, brokered by her biological parents. Nada had lived with her uncle since the age of two, and thankfully he has worked to shield her from becoming a child bride. Unfortunately, he couldn’t prevent her parents from arriving one day to take Nada back from her uncle’s care.
When Nada tried to express her wish to go back to her uncle, she was shocked with the news that she was getting married. “They told me that I am engaged and that my fiance had already paid them money and brought the engagement ring. They said that I couldn’t leave and even threatened to kill me if I went back to my uncle.”
Despite death threats from her immediate family, Nada succeeded in running away and reunited with her uncle. Now, she is speaking out about her experience with grace and eloquence far beyond her age.
In a video released on MEMRI TV, Nada speaks for the child brides who can’t speak for themselves. She says:
What about the innocence of childhood? What have the children done wrong?…I managed to solve my problem, but some innocent children can’t solve theirs, and they might die, commit suicide, or do whatever comes to mind…It’s not our fault. I’m not the only one. It can happen to any child.”
This is obviously unbelievably heartbreaking, but so, so encouraging to see heroes like Nada and their advocates like her amazing uncle getting press and attention. Nada’s ability to overcome her own struggles by fighting back and speaking up shows a remarkable sense of agency and empowerment that many people twice her age struggle to find. Hopefully, increased attention will ramp up activism and Yemeni officials will step up to better protect their country’s children.
Photo: Youtube // Story via Jezebel