Divorce rates in northern Nigeria are among the highest in West Africa, with one in three marriages said to fail within the first three years. Divorced women are left abandoned, sometimes living on the streets as they fend for themselves and their children. Nigerian authorities say that there are more than 1 million divorcees in Kano alone.
To combat the problem, the State Government of Kano hosted a mass wedding ceremony for 250 divorcees, widows and young unmarried girls. The marriages were arranged by the Hisbah Board, the main Islamic authority in the predominantly-Muslim state. Abba Sufi of the Hisbah Board told Al Jazeera's Mohammed Adow that perspective grooms had to apply to the board by filling out a form and getting an HIV test. "You write your name, your telephone number, the type of woman you want … I want a fair-looking, I want fat, I want slim." Two men were not cleared because they tested positive for HIV.
Not only did the state government foot the bill for the ceremony, but it also gave the newlyweds bedding, furnishings, clothes and food. Each bride was given cash with a value equivalent to $130. The money was intended to help the couples start new lives, free from debt.
Organizers say that the men who marry through the program will not be allowed to divorce their wives without permission from the state government.