Air Jordan 16s ‘” he says “We were always meant to be together”
Kaduna By the time she ran away, Maimuna bore the scars of a short but brutal marriage.
Her face swelled so much from her husband’s beating that doctors feared he had dislocated her jaw. Her back and arms bristled with angry welts where her father had whipped her for fleeing to him. She was gaunt from hunger, dressed in filthy rags. And barely a year after her wedding, she was divorced.
“I’m too scared to go back home,” she whispers, a frown crinkling her brow as she fiddles nervously with her hands. “I know they will force me to go back to my husband.”
Maimuna is one of thousands of divorced girls in Nigeria, children who were forced into marriage and have since run away or been thrown out by their husbands. They are victims of a belief that girls should get wed rather than educated, which drew the world’s attention after Boko Haram terrorists abducted more than 200 schoolgirls two months ago and threatened to marry them off. Most are still missing.
Maimuna’s former husband, Mahammadu Saidu, blames her few years of school for her disobedience. A handsome man of 28 who is obviously proud of his ankle high boots, he does not deny beating his wife.
“She had too much ABCD,” he says. “Too much ABCD.”Nigeria, a young country of about 170 million, has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world. The law of the land states that the age of consent, and thus of marriage, is 18. However, the custom of child marriage is still ingrained enough that even a federal senator has married five child brides, including a 13 year old Egyptian when he was 49, and divorced at least one.
Across the country, one in five girls are married before the age of 15, according to the United Nations. In the poor Muslim north, where most people eke out a living from the soil, that number goes up to one in two. Child marriage here is often considered acceptable under shariah or Islamic law.
This is also where Boko Haram is trying to impose its extreme version of Islam, changing the face of the region and especially of its girls. Children as young as five now hide their heads and shoulders in hijabs, a rare sight just a few years ago. Some girls become wives as Air Jordan 16s early as 9.
There are no official numbers for just how many of these girls get divorced, often ending up destitute and shunned by their families. But they are all too visible. A few miles from where Maimuna lives, children her age and younger sell their bodies to truck drivers, flitting in and out of vehicles. A few girls eye potential customers from the shade of a mango tree.
Maimuna was saved from this fate by Saadatu Aliyu, who has turned an old family home into a school for divorced girls. At the Tattalli Free School, which gets by on private donations, a couple of dozen girls gather in the courtyard for a sewing lesson. Many sit on the floor, because there’s not much furniture Air Jordan 15s beyond two benches. Toddlers mill around, the children of divorced girls who came in pregnant.
“Nobody knows how many thousands of them there are,” says Aliyu of the girls. “That’s why we have so many prostitutes, and very young ones, in the north.”
Maimuna grew up on the outskirts of Kaduna, in a half finished brick building on the edge of a middle class suburb. Her father, a farmer called Haruna Abdullahi, picks up a stone and throws it at a stray dog as scrawny as he is. At 45, he’s been married for 30 years. He has fathered eight children, one of whom died in childbirth.
“It’s our culture to give our girls in marriage,” he says in a reasoning tone. “From the age of 12, a girl can go to her husband’s house.”
His wife, Rabi Abdullahi, nods, and asks her husband’s permission before talking. She too was a child when she married, although she does not know exactly how old.
“It is our way of life,” she says. “In my day, a bride would never dare to run away.”
Her life is hard, she says, but her marriage good. She insists that her husband is not a cruel man, pointing to a Nike LeBron 11 well he built so she did not need to walk more than a mile to collect water.
The tradition of child marriage is rooted in poverty and a lack of education. This is a part of the world where most people do not have running water, electricity or indoor toilets, where children get only three or four years of schooling. A marriageable daughter can be a farmers’ biggest asset, bringing in a bride price and meaning one less mouth to feed.
So in late 2012, Maimuna’s father arranged to marry his eldest daughter to his best friend’s eldest son. The son, Saidu, paid a dowry of $210 or 35,000 naira for Maimuna more cash than Abdullahi has had in his life. She was 13, and he twice her age.
Saidu farms his own plot of land and owns a small motorbike, making him relatively well off and eligible. He says he has known Maimuna all his life, and waited years for her to reach what he considers marriageable age.
“When she was a kid, I would bring her candy and call her ‘wifey,'” he says. “We were always meant to be together.”
Saidu left his village school at fifth grade, the highest level offered, and says he regrets it. The high school Air Jordan 10s was in another village, too far to walk. Now he cannot write a message on a cellphone, and must find someone else to read him even the most personal of letters.
He says he promised Maimuna she could carry on going to school, even if it meant he had to find work in town. But he also worried.
“If she is educated, she will be looking down on me because I didn’t go to school, so she will be the husband and I will be the wife,” he explains.
Maimuna said she did not love him and begged her father to let her stay in school. She had always been a good daughter, obedient, hard working and popular among her friends, so her stubborn refusal to accept her marriage surprised her parents.
But her wishes were not up for discussion. Her father was clear on what counts: “It’s what is good for the family and the Air Jordan Fusion 4 community.”.