The 50-something teacher at the Koranic school described her as “calm and obedient,” ideal marriage material. Samira Abdoulaye, 19, did not return the sentiment.
Older than most of her peers—and all her 18 female siblings when they married, Samira the “calm and obedient” daughter said “no.”
Unfortunately, her rejection meant little and one afternoon the “old man,” as she describes him, showed up at the compound where she lived with her mother, her father’s two other wives, and several siblings and their daughters.
Her mother Salmou accepted the offer. Married herself at 12, Salmou felt relief in knowing her daughter would be taken care of. That Samira might object did not cross her mind.
And Samira, who was generally calm and obedient, did not think she could tell either parent no. Her older siblings—the brothers in particular—had teased her and berated her for remaining single for this long. And it was a source of disappointment and anxiety for her mother.
Believing she didn’t have the voice to object, she resolved to derail the nuptials by the only means at her disposal, ending her life.
Read more from Pulitzer Center grantee Jennifer Koons’s project: Less is more in Niger.