Two years ago, Nujood Ali's story made the 8-year-old child bride famous. She appeared on multiple television and award shoes, and in 2008, Glamour named her their "woman" of the year. But despite the fame, little has changed for Nujood.
Today, Nujood lives with her family in a two room house in an impoverished suburb of Sana'a. She does not go to school, and, according to Paula Newton for CNN, she has changed from being a bubbly, happy child to a rather angry and sullen girl (although, who wouldn't after suffering so much abuse?). She sits down grudgingly for an interview, during which she laments the fact that she made her story public:
"There is no change at all since going on television. I hoped there was someone to help us, but we didn't find anyone to help us. It hasn't changed a thing. They said they were going to help me and no one has helped me. I wish I had never spoken to the media," Nujood says bitterly.
But one important thing has changed for Nujood. She is no longer married to her much older "husband," at whose hand she suffered horrible physical and emotional abuse. After a few weeks of being beaten and raped, Nujood turned to her family for help, but her parents told her that she belonged to her husband now, and so they could no longer protect her. Desperate to leave, Nujood hailed a taxi and traveled to the city's central courthouse, where she sat on a bench and demanded to see a judge. Fortunately, the judge believed Nujood's story, and granted her a divorce (under Yemen law it is legal for a 30-year-old pedophile to marry a child, but just as long as he leaves her alone until she is "mature," something we somehow doubt she gets to decide). Unfortunately, the legal system in Yemen does not punish men who have sex with 8-year-old children under the name of "marriage," and instead required Nujood's father to pay her former husband over $200 in compensation.
Nujood's story made her briefly famous, and people everywhere celebrated her victory. Her family hoped that Nujood's fame might pay off for them as well, but so far, they have received little cash for her suffering. The money that has been donated to Nujood was intended to pay for tuition at a private school, but according to Shada Nasser, the human rights lawyer who worked on her divorce, Nujood refuses to attend, and her family refuses to force her. Nasser believes that Nujood is being victimized by her family, punished for not bringing in more money.
30 years ago, Khadije Al Salame was a child bride herself. Now, Salame is a Yemeni diplomat who is working to help Nujood get her life back on track. She tells CNN, "It's good to talk about Nujood and to have her story come out, but the problem is it's too much pressure on her. She doesn't understand what's going on." It is interesting to see Salame's quote alongside an interview with Nujood, especially since she goes on to say this: "She's a little girl and we have to understand as a media people that we should leave her alone now." Although Nujood has been made into a symbol of bravery and courage, she is still just a young, confused girl. Hopefully, this will be the last interview for Nujood, at least until she is older and more in control of her life. "If we really love Nujood then we should just let her go to school and continue with her life, because education is the most important thing for her."