"The Fight Against Child Marriage"

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
February 7, 2011
Secretary Clinton With Nujood Ali and Shada Nasser

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Yemen in January, where she reunited with Nujood Ali, the first child bride in Yemen to get a divorce, and Shada Nasser, Nujood's attorney. Secretary Clinton shared her thoughts about reconnecting with Nujood in a piece for Glamour.com. The Secretary wrote:

"At a recent town hall meeting in Yemen, I reconnected with two of my heroes...Nujood Ali was just nine years old when she was forced by her own family to marry a man three times her age. As is the case with so many child brides, Nujood had to drop out of school against her will, and she was physically abused. Wanting to find a way out of her misery and suffering, Nujood boarded a bus and found her way to the local courthouse.

"Everyone towered above her and paid no attention to her until a judge asked the young girl why she was there. Nujood said she wanted a divorce. Female attorney Shada Nasser took Nujood's case and others like it. Today, thanks to Shada's work, girls across Yemen have been given their childhoods back. They are back in school, where they belong.

"Child marriages like Nujood's are tragically common in many societies. In Yemen, for example, among the poorest one-fifth of girls, more than half marry before the age of 18. Of course, every society approaches marriage differently. But all societies also agree on the need to protect children. Which is why we must help young women like Nujood to make the case in their own societies that child marriage is unjust and unwise.

"Stopping child marriage is not just a must for moral or human rights reasons -- it lays the foundation for so many other things we hope to achieve. Primary education. Improved child and maternal health. Sustainable economic development that includes girls.

"Child marriage is both a consequence and a cause of poverty. In some cases, girls are sold into marriage simply to resolve a debt. Once married, child brides often lack status and power within their marriages and households. Their youth leaves them even more vulnerable to domestic violence, marital rape and other sexual abuse. They become isolated from their family, friends and community. On average, child brides become less healthy, and their kids grow up less healthy and poorer.

"We are working every day to turn the tide. But we cannot do it alone. We are reaching out to women and girls, fathers and brothers, religious leaders and all who can help us to convince societies that this particular tradition is better left behind. Many people, even in conservative societies, are taking up the banner -- not just as a matter of women's rights but also as a matter of human rights and economic development. Governments, too, are taking steps to raise the minimum age of marriage. We need to help those who support our cause to win arguments within their societies. And we need to make our case far and wide to plant the seeds that will one day convince the rest.

"When I first met Nujood and Shada two years ago, I was struck by their courage and by the power of their inspiring story. It seems I wasn't the only one. These young women have brought hope to those suffering inside forced marriages. They have raised awareness of the emotional, psychological, educational, economic and even physical dangers of marrying too early in life. And they have inspired so many of us to redouble our efforts to protect young girls like Nujood.

"Every day -- in every country -- people are standing up for the rights of women. In some places, this means ensuring that daughters as well as sons have enough to eat. In others, it means demanding equal pay for equal work. Everywhere, people are rallying around the belief that women's rights are human rights. They are coming to grips with what it means that societies cannot flourish if half their people are left behind. They are leading the fight to protect and promote human rights and opening up the doors of opportunity for everyone.

"The story of Nujood and Shada continues to change lives. Nujood is back in school, representing the dreams of so many young girls in Yemen and across the world. Shada continues to fight for Yemen's young girls. Other child brides have heard their story and come forward to declare that girls should have the right to decide when and whom to marry. All because a young girl stood up to injustice and a brave woman stood behind her.

"I often say that one of my goals as Secretary of State is to help people everywhere live up to their God-given potential. Few have fought as hard for it as Nujood Ali and Shada Nasser. I'm honored to know them. We all should share their cause."



Maryland, USA
February 7, 2011

Patrick in Maryland writes:

It sort of sounds like their selling their children's futures. This is very sad!

mohiuddin c.
February 8, 2011

Mohiuddin C. writes:


West Virginia, USA
February 8, 2011

Pamela G. in West Virginia writes:

These two women are incredible role models. Hope others hear and have the courage to come forward.

Omer A.
Nebraska, USA
February 8, 2011

Omer H.A. in Nebraska writes:

my message it's to stop the fighting with children no one can be accept that

Sandy B.
Wisconsin, USA
February 8, 2011

Sandy B. in Wisconsin writes:

Thank you so much Hillary for all you have done and continue to do with regard to human rights and equal rights for women and girls around the world. Our personal and collective work for a better world is to remove the obstacles for pursuing and achieving every human being's potential. Every child, boy, girl, man, or woman has unique talents and gifts that if given the opportunity to share and develop them in so doing will create a better world for us all and leave behind a beautiful legacy for others to look up to!

North Carolina, USA
February 8, 2011

Kate in North Carolina writes:

It sounds like this story has a happy ending . . . but I would like to know if this girls's family took her back? or is she considered a 'dishonor', and in an orphanage or something like that? will she be able to marry later in life, if/when she wants? or is she 'damaged goods'?

While I applaud her courage, and her attorney's, and deplore the whole idea of child marriages, these are complex problems with wider implications. It usually takes a long time to change cultural practices.

North Carolina, USA
February 8, 2011

Kate in North Carolina writes:

Also, since the USA is the only country - other than Somalia - that has never signed off on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, perhaps we should do that before we criticize Yemani (and others countries') cultural practices that involve children. In some countries (eg, Sri Lanka) the best way parents have to protect their children from being kidnapped & conscripted into being child-soldiers is to marry them off while they are very young.

Again, these are very complex issues.

But the US signing onto the 50-year-old UNCRC should not be complicated at all - when is that going to happen?

M. T.
February 8, 2011

Owais T. in Germany writes:

I love you America for being with the people who are in need. this is a great job which you are doing it Mrs. Clinton, i am very happy to see your human rights activities with lots of success....actually this phenomenon of child marriage is not related to any kind of religion bounds, it is only a bad tradition which has become a part of the cultures in the countries where is the shortage of knowledge, education, technology, and good economic status. and they are living in ignorance of the human rights....even the local governments do not want to fight against it because there are some links of it with the local feudalism which is supporting the governments and they want this thing to be practiced in their areas for their personal benefits and the feudal is forcing this culture on the local religious spiritual leaders and priests, to try to link it with the religious Holiness to not make the people who have no knowledge from the basics of their religion and they do obey blindly the things which are being told for them by the side of priests and Imams and do to lake of knowledge they do not dare to make investigations about this issue.

So these are the main reasons which has made this shameful phenomenon to be an accepted part of the culture in some countries and the people do practice it usually by knowing that this is wrong some of them are suffer for doing this to their child, but as it is so usual they don`t fight against it, or the other reason is the economical problem and the force which are making the people to do it....but there are ways for destruction of this phenomenon like : to fight against the local illegal powers or Feudalism, Corruption, and the most important thing is the information to be reached to those people to open their eyes and to explain them that this phenomenon is not a part of any religion in this world and even this is the affair of devil not even a human being.

There are many countries in this world where this culture of child marriage exists....HOPE FOR A BETTER TOMORROW

Mary B.
Michigan, USA
February 8, 2011

Mary B. in Michigan writes:

What an amazing story of courage. Thank you Secretary Clinton for EVERYTHING you do for women and girls throughout the world. You are an inspiration to each of us. I often ask myself how one person can have such an amazing impact and then I answer myself - hard work, faith and courage.

February 8, 2011

Guillermo writes:

Wow when i saw this article i was surprised because marriage is a serious commitment and it should be only by adults, i really hope to be a good law in Yemen to block that unlawful act.



June 26, 2011

Angel in Georgia (U.S.A.) writes:

I think we should start cleaning up our own marriage laws here in the States first. I was an unwilling child bride at 15 to a 43 year old grown man. This happened right here in the good O'le USA, South Carolina! People, check your States laws on this. The laws need to be changed. A 15 year old is still a child and cannot make such a mature decision.


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