“As the father of the community of Gobir, when I see a girl married too early, who became fistulous? Who can’t contain her urine, who cannot live in the society, who is really marginalized. I don’t have the right to stay seated and let things continue this way. We have been ignorant for a very long time. Instead of school we marry our daughters and put them in hell. Please women, be wise, send your daughters to school…”
– Abdou Bala Marafa, the Emir of Gobir (Niger)
About a week ago, I stumbled upon the story of Abdou Mala Marafa, a tribal chieftan in the African nation of Niger. I learned about his work in the midst of doing some work on those who are working to end child marriage. Sometimes it’s easy to feel that the situation is nothing but grim – but men like this particular tribal leader really do give me hope.
In Niger, child marriage has been a common occurrence. In fact, more than three quarters of Niger’s female children are wed before the age of 18. Read the horrific story of Habiba, whose early pregnancy left her physically impaired and subsequently ostracized.
The West might assume that this is all the fault of the Muslim men in communities like Habiba’s. However, in the case of Niger (and elsehwere in Africa), Islamic leaders have done phenomenal things to protect women and end their suffering.
Abdou Bala Marafa – the Emir (tribal king) of Gobir, Niger – has lead the way in protecting girls from such a fate.
Abdou Bala Marafa, one of Niger’s most prominent Islamic leaders, has lead the way in the effort to improve the lives of women in his country. He’s pioneered efforts to educate the population about HIV/AIDS, literacy, and more.
But one of his boldest initiatives has been to protect young girls from being married too early. He’s organized the Good Conduct Brigades – a group of trained men (and women!) who travel from village to village not just to educate and organize rallies on the issue of child marriage — but also intervene in cases where a girl is in danger.
They just might be the coolest Muslims on motorcycles I’ve ever heard of.
But, above all, they’re saving lives – in a context that would otherwise look bleak.
Non-Muslims in particular might want to click here to read a Al-Azhar University’s document on the rights and protection of children. It explains how the violation of a child is clearly forbidden in Islam; and how children must be protected.
If interested, click here to learn what you can do to help.