‘After my divorce, I had a lot of success’

Growing up in a family of clerics in northwest Nigeria, which has the country’s highest prevalence of child marriage, Khadijah was expected to be a young bride. “A girl cannot be more than 14 without getting married off,” she says. She became a bride at 13. But she ultimately did not accept limitations on her education, for which she “sold all my property to pay for my studies.”


My name is Khadijah Isyaku Muhammad. I am from Kano municipality in Nigeria’s Kano state.

I was married off at age 13.

I’m a member of the Fulani tribe and come from a family of clerics.

Even now in our family, a girl cannot be more than 14 without getting married off.

Yes, I can say it was an arranged marriage, because at the time, I could not differentiate between love and hate. I don’t know what love is.

His family didn’t follow our marriage customs, except they provided a dowry and wedding gifts.

I had not begun menstruating when I married. I started in my husband’s house.

I suffered a lot during childbirth, because I was young at the time.

We have three children.

INTERVIEWER: How many years were you married?

Eight years.

INTERVIEWER: Now that you are divorced, what are you doing?

First of all, I have to thank my God. After my divorce, I had a lot of success.

At first, I wondered how to go back to school, even though everyone in my family opposed it. They wanted me to marry again.

Then I sold all my property to pay for my studies. I studied mass communication because I really love journalism.

Global perspective

Percentage of women married before 18
10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60%
Show map

United States


The number of children married per 1,000, ages 15-17 years old

(That's about .6%
of 15- to 17-year-olds .)

The term ‘child marriage’ refers to formal marriages and informal unions in which a girl or boy under age 18 lives with a partner as if married. In an informal union, a couple lacks a formal civil or religious ceremony. Our graphic is based on United Nations information. The main sources are national census and household surveys, including the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) and Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS). Surveys are subject to sampling and measurement error. We used the U.N. child marriage and population figures to approximate how many women in each country were married before 15 and before 18.

Source: “Child Marriage Database”. UNICEF (March 2018)

“World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision”. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2017)