Nada Al-Ahdal is an 11-year-old Yemeni girl who recently risked everything to run away from home and seek refuge with her uncle after learning about her parents’ intentions to marry her off to a much older man. Nada knew that her teenage aunt, trapped in an arranged marriage and abused by her husband, had committed suicide to escape her fate. Nada did not want to be forced down the same path.
“I would have had no life, no education. Don’t they have any compassion?” Nada says in a video posted on YouTube. “I’m better off dead. I’d rather die.”
Thank goodness Nada has an older relative there to take her in and stand up for her, but many girls her age are not as lucky. The World Health Organization reports that 39,000 girls around the world are forced into child marriage every day. “Child marriage” is defined as marriage before 18 years of age, but many are even younger when they are forced into matrimony. The many dangers girls face in early marriages include premature pregnancy, maternal mortality (girls under 15 are five times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth than older women), infant mortality, poverty, illiteracy, abuse, and more.
The best defense against practices like this, which endanger women and make our global community weaker, is education. We must raise our voices and empower women to change their communities.
Here are several resources working against child marriage and in support of women and children everywhere:
- International Center for Research on Women
- United Nations Population Fund
- Child Rights International Network