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A Nigerian mass wedding to fight stigma of 'divorcee'

In a state better known for bombings, a mass wedding of 100 divorcees to confront traditional stigma of divorce in Nigerian society.

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Kano has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons lately, as Islamist rebels calling themselves Boko Haram attack Christian churches and government installations.

But this week, Kano put itself into the history books in a different way, holding what is billed as the first "mass" wedding in Nigeria's post-colonial history.

The wedding had all the trappings of a carnival: 100 couples were married off by the Kano state Gov. Rabiu Kwankwaso. Grooms dressed in white robes and red prayer caps, and women wore long white flowing dresses and veils, and filed into mosques to hear Quranic recitations and speeches from senior politicians.  They all then filed out again to the streets, to be serenaded by traditional praise singers wishing the new couples the best of luck in their new marriages.

Aside from celebrating marriage, the mass wedding was also a platform for Kano society to break with old traditions of shunning those who have been widowed or divorced.  

The nongovernmental organisation Voice of Divorcees and Widows of Nigeria (VOWAN) estimates that more than 1 million divorcees and widows live in Kano state alone, and the state government plans to help select and marry off 1,000 screened couples in the coming months. In each of the 100 couples married in the mass wedding, at least one spouse who had been previously married.

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