Yemeni Human Rights Activist, Teenage Girl Nada Al-Ahdal, Calls to Raise Awareness of the "Heinous Crime" of Child Marriage
Yemeni teenager Nada Al-Ahdal, who fled home to avoid an arranged marriage at the age of 11 and has established an institute for the protection of children's rights, said that the institute dealt with a myriad of issues, including the recruitment of child soldiers, underage marriage, and child labor. Speaking on the Yemeni Alghad Al-Moshreq TV channel on March 19, 2017, Al-Ahdal talked of the importance of raising awareness to the dangers inherent in the phenomenon of child marriage, saying that this was even more important than legislation. Nada Al-Ahdal became an Internet sensation when a video she posted on YouTube, pleading for help when her parents tried to marry her off, went viral, after being translated by MEMRI.
Host: "We are pleased to have human rights activist Nada Al-Ahdal on our show. Nada managed to escape the trap of early marriage, when she fled at the age of ten. Today she holds the title: 'President of the Nada Institute for Human Rights.'
"Nada, where are you today after all these years?"
Nada Al-Ahdal: "I have established an institute for the protection of children's rights. This institute is involved in many projects, and it fights phenomena like the recruitment of child soldiers, like child marriage, child labor, the displacement of children, and many other issues. I hope that we will be able to put an end to these problems as soon as possible."
Host: "A while ago, I saw a post that you wrote about a girl who hanged herself, I'm sad to say, because she was married off when she was a minor, and every time she tried to escape, her family would send her back."
Nada Al-Ahdal: "First of all, this phenomenon is widespread in Yemen and in the Arab world in general. It is a great problem, which destroys the rights of girls. Child marriage is a heinous crime, and I hope that we will be able to put an end to it as soon as possible. This phenomenon has spread throughout the Arab world, especially in Yemen, and has worsened with the war.
"My family are not to blame for what they did to me. Ignorance and backwardness are the main reasons for this phenomenon, followed by poverty as an explanation for this kind of marriage. Poverty is not the main reason for child marriages. The main reason is the lack of awareness of the dangers of this kind of marriage. We must put an end to this kind of marriage by raising awareness, even before legislation. Raising awareness is more important than legislating laws. India, for example, is the worst place in the world in terms of child marriage, even though it has a law against this."