October 22, 2021


documenting the nigerian story…

Short story: 12 AND A BRIDE

Aisha Yusuf Sabo


For the first time in her life, Habiba felt sorry to hear the Azaan. Why can’t a person turn back the hands of time a little, to suit his/her purpose? Her head had barely touched the mattress when she heard the call to the dawn prayer. Remembering the day’s agenda, tears glistened in her eyes.


Lying back on the mattress, she closed her eyes and let the tears she had been holding flow freely down her face. She’s definitely not ready to get married, not at this point in time, and certainly not at the age of 12, when she is supposed to be in school, pursuing her educational dreams just like Habib, her twin. She had no idea what she’s going to face or how she will be treated in Malam Umaru’s house.

Suddenly, Inna, her mother peeped into the room and asked: “Why are you still in bed Beeba? You should get up and get ready. It’s your wedding day.”

“My wedding day” Tears streamed down her face as the words echoed in her head.


Habiba sat amidst her friends, dressed in a red and white Ankara, sewn into a blouse and skirt.

More thoughts whirl through her head as she sees them talking and laughing non-stop, totally oblivious to her pain. It is as if nobody noticed

her presence.

Habiba has always felt the difference between Habib and her, starting from the day Habib was enrolled in a primary school and Baba declined her request to also go to school like him.

She had cried every morning, ever since,  begging Baba to let her enrol in school.  She craved to read the alphabets and write them as she sees her brother doing. Finally, her father agreed after much persuasion, on the condition that she will stop at primary school level only.

Habiba innocently agreed, having in mind that when she excel, he will be happy to let her continue. But never had she ever thought that he will get her married at the age of 12, and to a man several times her age.

All of a sudden, the voices of older women echoed in the house “An daura, An daura (The knot has been tied)” cutting her off her thoughts.

“This is really happening” Habiba muttered as everything inside her collapsed into a heap. She recalled the high mortality of underaged girls while giving birth, and the many others who were down with vesico vaginal fistula, living  lives as hell.

She also recalled her cousin who is now a mother of 3. She also had to drop out of school to marry an older man. Her hopes of going to the university became a distant memory. Habiba doesn’t want to end up in that category.

She wiped the lone tear that escaped her eyes when she felt a light tap on her shoulder.

“Inna?” Habiba said with a feeble smile.

Inna beamed, her eyes filled with tears. She agreed to this marriage because her husband had insisted on it. Well, she dared not talk against it, after all her opinion doesn’t matter at all.

“Habiba you’re now married. In the next few hours, you’ll be taken to your matrimonial home…” A sob escaped her mouth

as Habiba closed her eyes but the tears still forced their way past her eyelids. Inna pulled her daughter into her arms “May Allah continue to bless you in folds, May Allah bless your home.”

As much as she hates to admit it, Habiba knows that this is her reality and she has to accept it. She held tightly onto her mother’s embrace “Aamin, thank you Inna.” She replied, knowing that prayer is the only armour she has in the new life she has to live.

Aisha wrote in from Maiduguri.