Yemeni girl tells how she misses school after forced marriage at age of 13

Child marriage protest outside Yemen’s parliament Picture: Afrah Nasser

A young girl in Yemen has told how she fled from her parents’ home at the age of 13 after being forced to marry.

Laila was taken by other family members to live with her grandmother after her wedding and has never lived with her husband.

But she cannot go to school for fear she will be abducted and is trying to get a divorce.

Laila said: “I am not sure if I will ever escape from this nightmare.

“I pray for my younger sisters that they will never have to go through this.”

Laila told her story to demonstrate how the widespread practice of child marriage is affecting young girls in Yemen. Girls as young as eight are married – disrupting their education and robbing them of their childhoods.

The teenager told the UNICEF website that she returned from school one day to be told by her father that she was getting married in two weeks.

Laila said: “I started screaming and my mother rushed out to grab me while my father angrily threatened to beat – or even kill – me, if I refused.

“I was helpless. It was like a nightmare. I saw my world crashing around me. I wanted the nightmare to end so I could be back at school with my friends.”

More than one million children – a quarter of the young population – are out of school in Yemen, which has no uniformly defined age for a child.

Child marriage has been debated by delegates at the country’s National Dialogue Conference. They have taken first steps in defining children as all those under the age of 18.

This could be key in tackling other child protection issues in Yemen such as child labour, juvenile death penalty and child trafficking.

Another girl told in a video made by UNICEF (watch it on the player above) how she was married at 13 to an older man.

She said: “I was a child dreaming of everything good. Girls are always wronged. I wish I could finish my education – but it was destroyed by early marriage.”

You can learn more about the education issues affecting Yemen in our Explore channel.