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Sunday 21 December  
Nujood Ali
Sanaa, Yemen
Sanaa, Yemen

“I made it possible for my father to buy new wives”

Published on : 4 March 2013 - 1:47pm | By RNW Arab Desk ((C) Judith Spiegel)
More about:

She escaped from her husband. Ran to court. Got a divorce. All at the age of 10. Publishing her memoirs, Nujood Ali from Yemen began to break down barriers. Five years on, we visit Nujood to see how she is getting on. Her life, it seems, has only gone from really bad to less bad.

BY RNW correspondent Judith Spiegel, in the Yemeni capital Sana'a

The house I enter is dark and small. I am in Al Hasabah, an area of Sana’a where heavy fighting took place between government troops and tribesmen in the spring of 2011. On the bare concrete floor are some dirty mattresses and a jerry can with water. A wire without a light bulb hangs from the ceiling. The only decoration in the four square meter room is a poster of a car and one with Quranic verses.

I am confused. I was supposed to meet a girl rich by Yemeni standards. In the media Nujood was portrayed as a happy middle class girl, going to a private school, wanting to become a lawyer. My thoughts are interrupted when Nujood steps out of the darkness, wearing her best dress. 

Fled the fighting
“I do not go to school anymore, maybe next year,” Nujood says with an apologetic look. “We had to flee during the war and ever since I didn’t go back to school. I do not live in my own house anymore, because my father lives there. He used to beat me, I cannot live with him.” His third wife kicked her out of the house that Nujood actually owns. It was bought for her with the help of the publisher of her book

Nujood’s book did well. But she is not the one who has benefited. Nujood explains: “My father gets a monthly salary, I think it comes from the publisher, but I am not sure. He gives me only 50 dollars a month, sometimes I get nothing.” Suddenly she realises: “I made it possible for him to buy new wives.” 

No new law
A law to impose a minimum age for marriages, for both girls and boys, never made it through the Yemeni parliament. Religious scholars and other arties intervened to prevent it. Fathers in Yemen can still marry their daughters off as young as eight or nine. 

Bad advertising
The Yemeni authorities have twice denied Nujood permission to travel. Both times she had been invited abroad to receive an award. But the government clearly feels the story of a nine-year old child bride is one better not told to the world. More bad advertising for a country that still ranks at the bottom of the list when it comes to gender equality.

Nujood is not angry, for her this is life. She used to dream of becoming a lawyer, of travelling, of getting scholarships. It did not happen. But Nujood tries to see things positively: “After the book we had a house and food.” Nujood gives me one of her sweet smiles again. She touches my hand, shows me her black nail polish and wants to be in a photo.

Never ever
The 13 or 14 year old (Nujood is not sure), is no longer married to a much older man who raped and beat her. She still hopes to go back to school, but does not seem very sure she will. And how about marriage, will she ever get married again? “Never ever ever ever!” 

The publisher has not responded to a request for information about why the book revenues are not paid directly to Nujood and whether anyone is monitoring the situation.

  • Nujood with her nieces and nephews<br>&copy; (C) Judith Spiegel -
  • Kitchen and women&#039;s sleeping room in Nujood&#039;s home<br>&copy; (C) Judith Spiegel -
  • Nujood at home<br>&copy; (C) Judith Spiegel -
  • Nujood with her brother and other family members<br>&copy; (C) Judith Spiegel -


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Caroline Harding 6 June 2014 - 2:31am / United States

Nujood Ali is amazing.she did the impossible when she was only ten years old. Her situation is horrible so we need to do something about I.because there are other girls out there who need help! We can do something!

Sunanda 6 April 2014 - 5:31am / India

I wish i could bring her to my home with me as my sister. I don't earn too much. Struggling through the stepping stones in my career. But earn enough to add one member to the family. If only there was a way.

Anonymous 16 March 2014 - 8:55pm

I read the book. This little girl has guts. It is an unspeakable injustice that nobody can help this girl today. Where is the UN with all the money they are getting from the Western countries? Cases like this tell me that they are really a useless bunch.
I wish I had a lot of money so that I could help this girl.

Melissa 5 March 2014 - 2:37pm / Canada

Where is her lawyer? Can't she fight to get nujood the money that belongs to her? And get her out of that awful situation! I wish there was something I could do

Anonymous 22 August 2013 - 11:42am / India

UNO can do something for these kids! They have fund as well as support. Then why not pressurise the yemen government and get her out of that country. Her life may turn out to be a bigger mess if she is growing up amidst such a senseless croud!

GR 21 July 2013 - 7:00am / USA

How can we helped this precious child? Can anybody conect her with an organization like compassion international or save the children???

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Alyce 16 June 2013 - 1:35pm / Usa

Some one need to help this little girl. Where are the people who help her the first time. She is still being abused . Her father (if you can call him that ) should not get the money.

Anonymous 23 May 2013 - 7:29pm

Remember, it was her father who sold her away into a marriage with a rapist and an abuser. He does not care about his daughter. The fact that he did not marry her again is probably an indicator he thinks he can earn more on her story if she remains unmarried. I think it is very good Nujood no longer lives with her abusive family. But she urgently needs education. Why doesn't some western country reach out and offer her a scholarship abroad? I do not get it. She is clearly brave and talented little girl. Her rights are so violated that it makes us all sick. Cant we take care of her? Cant we make her go to school somehow, somewhere?

Anonymous 26 July 2013 - 3:06pm / Switzerland

No one can give her a scholarship abroad because the Yemeni government won't allow her to travel. Another article said they have even confiscated her passport to prevent it.

Anonymous 9 August 2014 - 4:58am

Do you think it's possible to maybe smuggle her out? But she's so famous I don't think u can work. ;(

Anonymous 9 August 2014 - 4:58am

Do you think it's possible to maybe smuggle her out? But she's so famous I don't think u can work. ;(

Sad 3 May 2013 - 3:20am / Canada

Najood's story is so inspiring. The fact that she went through such abuse and came through with hope and loveliness amazes me. But this just disgusts me! How can this be allowed?! She's still being abused and now she's being exploited once again by her father. This backwards country must change and stop marginalizing half of it's population. What a curse it must be to be a woman and seen as less than human. Someone must stop this and change the laws. Give women the rights than men have and stop this madness.

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