Yemeni child bride honored among Women of the Year

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A Yemeni child bride, who gained international renown after refusing to accept a forced marriage to a man nearly three times her age, on Monday received an award as a “Woman of the Year” alongside nine others.

The annual Women of the Year Awards, published by Glamour Magazine for the past 19 years and sponsored by L’Oreal, pay tribute to women who have made major contributions to entertainment, business, sport, fashion, science and politics.

Nujood Ali, who is now 10, was chosen for the award after her unusual story of rebellion against an arranged marriage made her an international celebrity, with her story highlighted by various magazines and TV networks.

Like many young girls in Yemen, where the majority are Muslim, Ali was pulled out of second-grade from her school in the capital Sanaa by her impoverished father and married to a man in his 30s. He beat and sexually assaulted her.

Under Yemeni law the minimum age of marriage is 15, according to the U.S. Department of State, but tribal customs and interpretations of Islam often override this and girls are married much earlier with bride-price payments widespread.

But rather than accept traditional custom, Ali went to court, got the help of a human rights lawyer and successfully filed for divorce in April this year.

“With the help of human rights lawyer Shada Nasser... Yemeni child bride Nujood Ali took the stand against her husband in court, and was granted a historic divorce,” said a statement about her award, presented at a ceremony in New York.

“Together Nasser and Ali are committed to saving other little girls from early marriage.”

Ali was also picked for the Women of the Year Fund Initiative, where one of the awardees is chosen as the basis for fund-raising for their project.

Other women to make the annual list were TV personality Tyra Banks for her charity that supports young women, Hillary Clinton for inspiring generations of women, and Chanel Chief Executive Maureen Chiquet for her role in international business.

Jane Goodall, best known for her ground-breaking work with chimpanzees, was awarded a lifetime achievement award for her humanitarian and environmental work while Australian actress Nicole Kidman was praised for her work with the United Nations Development Fund for Women.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, beach volleyball duo Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, and artist Kara Walker also featured in the 2008 list.

The winners, featured in the December issue of Glamour magazine on the newsstands on Tuesday, were picked by an advisory board made up of past honorees ranging from Diane von Furstenberg to Nora Ephron to Queen Latifah.

Editing by Miral Fahmy