New Charity VOW Partners With the Wedding Industry to End Child Marriage
Every three seconds, a girl under the age of 18 is married. That amounts to 12 million girls annually around the globe—or nearly one in five. Many young brides are forced into marriage with an older man and must drop out of school. They face threats of sexual violence, disease, and complications from labor. Child marriage happens everywhere, across all religions and cultures.
Princess Mabel van Oranje of the Netherlands has been on a mission to end this practice ever since she met a young Ethiopian girl who had wed between the ages of five and seven—the girl had no birth certificate and didn't know her age, so she couldn't be sure.
"My daughters at the time were age five and six, and I thought, 'if they had had the misfortune to be born in this community they would probably be brides by now," Mabel recalls. "This is the injustice of life that I think we must all stand up for."
Every three seconds, a girl under 18 is married. That amounts to 12 million girls annually.
As the chair of Girls Not Brides, Mabel was instrumental in encouraging the United Nations to include ending child marriage in the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.
That goal is becoming more attainable through VOW, a new partnership announced by Mabel and Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation that will harness the power of America’s $100-billion wedding industry to end child marriage globally.
Left to Right: Dhanusha Sivajee, CMO of The Knot; Suzy Cirulis, VP of Marketing, Crate & Barrell; HRH Princess Mabel van Oranje-Nassau, van Amsberg-Wisse Smit, of the Netherlands; Malia Mills, founder
and designer Malia Mills
VOW gives couples the chance to give back by selecting VOW as their preferred charity when they create their wedding registry with The Knot and buy VOW products with a brand partner (key wedding industry leaders like Crate and Barrel and Malia Mills have already committed.) Direct donations can also be made.
All funds raised by VOW go to the Girls First Fund, and those proceeds will go directly to local, on-the-ground organizations working to end child marriage and empower girls through legislation, education, and community outreach.
Mabel came up with the idea while at a friend's wedding. "On a day when a couple says 'I do,' why not make it possible for a girl somewhere else in the world to say 'I don't?'"
One of the first people Mabel approached was her longtime friend Walker, who has been president of the Ford Foundation—one of the country's biggest philanthropic organizations—since 2013.
The Knot's CMO Dhanusha Sivajee at the VOW launch.
"Literally within three or four minutes he got it, " says Mabel. "He realized it is a huge problem that has been ignored and really deserves to be on the global development agenda."
Walker says he signed on so quickly because, he says, "we at Ford are committed to the idea that every person on the planet should live a life filled with dignity. And there is nothing more undignified and dehumanizing than stripping a girl of her freedom to live a full life. Geography should not be destiny."
Ford Foundation President Darren Walker
In 2019, the Girls First Fund will support projects in six countries around the world: Democratic Republic of Congo, Dominican Republic, India, Nepal, Niger
"Every girl has a right to dream. Weddings are all about dreams, about what can happen when two people commit themselves to a life together," Walker says. "That's the brilliance of the VOW initiative—taking that occasion to demonstrate what happens when marriage isn't romantic or isn't what a girl would aspire to."
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.