Your Wedding Could Help End Child Marriage
Girls living in poor households are almost twice as likely to marry before age 18.
The United States' wedding industry, worth billions of dollars annually, will begin directing some profits toward ending child marriage in as part of new campaign announced on Monday, Reuters reports.
Founded by Princess Mabel van Oranje of the Netherlands, the campaign, called VOW, will raise funds through wedding registries, direct donations, and wedding product sales in the US, and will distribute them through the Girls First Fund to community-based organizations working to stop child marriage around the world.
VOW will fund a variety of efforts that address the root causes of child marriage specific to communities such as providing access birth control, sex education, and poverty alleviation, Marie Claire reports.
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Americans spend $100 billion on weddings each year and VOW hopes to tap into that vast spending to help combat child marriage worldwide. Every year, 12 million girls — 1 in 5 globally — are married before their 18th birthdays.
Though child marriage and forced marriage are practices that affect boys and girls, young girls are overwhelmingly the victims of the harmful practice.
VOW aims to create a world where every girl can decide when, if, and whom to marry," according to a statement on their website, and will work with partners including furniture company Crate and Barrel, fashion brand Malia Mills, and wedding website The Knot.
"Couples and companies can help to make sure that, somewhere else in the world, a girl who's not yet ready to get married can say, "I don't," Princess Mabel van Oranje told Reuters.
Poverty and gender inequality are major drivers of child marriage. Girls living in poor households are almost twice as likely to marry before age 18 than girls in higher income households. In developing countries, which typically have higher poverty rates, one-third of girls are married before the age of 18, while 1 in 9 are married by age 15, according to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW).
Girls are often seen as financial burdens on their families rather than children full of potential to be educated and valued. In many cases, girls as young as 7 or 8 have been married off to alleviate their family's financial burden.
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Marrying children off at such a young age, before they have completed their education, makes them vulnerable to abuse and hinders their ability to advocate for themselves. As a result, many child brides are at risk of domestic violence and diseases like HIV and AIDS, according to nonprofit Girls Not Brides.
"The bottom line is that it all relates, in the end, to the inequality between men and women, between boys and girls ... this idea that a girl is a burden that you want to get rid of," van Oranje told Marie Claire.
To help end child marriage, couples can register their wedding with VOW and a percentage of all gifts will go to the cause, or donate directly here. VOW partner brands will also donate $1 — up to $35,000 — to help end child marriage for every photo posted on social media channels using the hashtag #VOWForGirls until Oct. 11.