Nigerian Kano divorcees marry in mass ceremony

image caption, The ceremony was held at the Emir of Kano's palace

A hundred couples have been married in a mass ceremony sponsored by local government in northern Nigeria.

It is the first of a batch planned by religious authorities for Muslim women who have been divorced or widowed - a total of 1,000 couples are to be wed.

The aim is to try to reduce a rising divorce rate in the state of Kano and provide the women with a stable home and financial and social security.

The wedding took place at the palace of a traditional ruler, the Emir of Kano.

Suitors screened

The marriages have been arranged by the Hizba board, the main Islamic authority in the predominantly Muslim state - in a bid to reduce the number of women, especially in the city of Kano, left fending for themselves and their children, sometimes on the streets, following divorce.

The BBC's Will Ross in Lagos says that many women in the north are not given the chance to complete their education - and then struggle to earn a living if they are widowed or divorced, because few men pay child maintenance.

After a radio campaign since mid-February calling for prospective suitors, the Hizba and a local women's organisation screened the applicants, including testing for HIV, and then helped with the match-making.

image caption, The brides were given the final say in choosing their husbands

Bride prices normally given to the wife's family by the husband have been paid for by a local entrepreneur - and Kano state government paid for the bride's "kayan daki", a collection of brass and enamel bowls and decorative cups and saucers, which are a symbol of her married status.

Arranged marriage is common in northern parts of Nigeria, but correspondents say it was the women who had the final say in choosing their husbands.

Men who marry through this programme will not be allowed to divorce their wives without permission from the Hizba.

The organisers say the day of the first wedding was selected to coincide with this year's anniversary of the UN's International Day of Families.

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