NEW YORK, Oct. 8, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- At a moment of renewed drive to empower women and girls across the world, VOW launched today with a mission to put the reach and economic power of America's $100-billion wedding industry behind the global movement to end child marriage by 2030.
VOW gives couples, companies and the public the power to join the movement to end child marriage globally. The new initiative has already secured commitments from leading companies — influential brands The Knot, Crate and Barrel and Malia Mills are among the first on board — to donate a portion of profits from products, experiences and wedding registries to local, on-the-ground organizations that stand up for girls' rights and against child marriage.
Beyond the purchase of VOW-branded products and experiences, couples can broaden their commitment by selecting VOW as their preferred charity when they create their wedding registry with a brand partner. Direct donations can be made at www.vowtoendchildmarriage.org or by texting VOW to 44321.*
The initiative is the brainchild of Mabel van Oranje, an expert on the issue of child marriage, who leads the VOW Board with more than two decades of experience as a top global advocate for freedom, justice and development.
"A young girl is married somewhere in the world every three seconds — thrust into a relationship that she usually did not choose and often can't escape," said van Oranje. "Americans spend tens of billions each year saying, 'I do,' and VOW is about investing part of those funds in supporting girls to say, 'I don't.' Every girl should have the right to choose if, when and whom she marries. We want to ensure that organizations working locally to end child marriage around the world have the resources that they need to have a real impact on the ground. I am absolutely delighted that partners in the U.S. wedding industry are stepping up to the challenge to make sure that girls can stay out of marriage and in school. I urge other visionary companies and couples who are planning to get married to join this important cause."
Each year, a staggering 12 million girls are married before they reach the age of 18 — some as young as 8 or 9. That's 23 girls every minute, who are robbed of their futures and their education, putting them at risk of violence, ill health and trapping them in poverty. If child marriage continues at present rates, the number of women married as children will grow to 1.2 billion by 2050.
All funds raised by VOW go to the Girls First Fund. This unique fund champions local organizations working tirelessly to stand up for girls' rights and against child marriage. Starting in 2019, the Girls First Fund will initially support local organizations in six countries with high prevalence of child marriage: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, India, Nepal, Niger and Uganda.
Having supported efforts to end child marriage for many years, the Ford Foundation is the first major philanthropic seed funder for VOW, partnering closely with Princess Mabel van Oranje to fuel this creative new solution to the crisis.
"Child marriage robs young girls of their potential, therefore denying our world the benefits of their bright minds. At Ford, our work focuses on challenging inequality, so it's natural for us to support initiatives that lift up grassroots and girl-led community efforts to end child marriage in local communities," said Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation. "The power of an effort like VOW lies in its unexpected bridging of worlds and industry sectors. We hope that happy couples, entering into joyful marriages of their own choosing, will embrace the idea that empowering girls in other parts of the world is a fitting way to celebrate their love and partnership."
Please visit www.vowtoendchildmarriage.org and follow along at #vowforgirls to learn more about VOW.
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VOW gives couples, companies and the public the power to help end child marriage. We believe every girl has the right to a safe and healthy future including the right to choose if, when and whom to marry. VOW is an independent organization developed with the support of Girls Not Brides, the Ford Foundation and Hive. VOW's Board members include Mabel van Oranje, initiator and chair of Girls Not Brides, Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation and Margaret Hempel. The Give Lively Foundation Inc., a Section 501(c)(3) organization, is the fiscal sponsor of VOW To End Child Marriage, Inc.
About the Girls First Fund
The Girls First Fund is a donor collaborative supported by leading philanthropic organizations and individual philanthropists who have come together to champion community-led efforts so that all girls can live free from child marriage and create their own future. The fund's partners focus on girls, families and communities because they are in the best position to create lasting, local change and address the causes of child marriage at their roots. The Girls First Fund is a philanthropic fund of Capital for Good USA, a U.S. 501(c)(3) public charity, with services provided by Geneva Global. To learn more visit www.girlsfirstfund.org.
About child marriage
Child marriage is a global problem affecting 12 million girls every year. It cuts across countries, cultures and religions. While sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have the highest rates of child marriage overall, the practice happens everywhere, including in parts of Europe and the United States.
The key reason behind child marriage is gender inequality. Girls are not valued as much as boys – they are seen as a 'burden' and their primary role in society is to become wives and mothers. As a result, parents and society do not consider alternatives to child marriage, nor do they see the need to invest in their daughters' education.
Child marriage is also fueled by poverty, and the belief that girls will be 'safer' by being married young. In times of humanitarian crisis, for example, child marriage rates increase. In fact, girls are less safe when they are married young and are more likely to be exposed to domestic and other forms of violence. They are also at higher risk of dying or experiencing difficulties during childbirth.
There is no single solution to ending child marriage. There needs to be a multi-pronged, integrated approach from all sectors. Girls need to be empowered to know their rights and exercise them; families and communities need to be mobilized; governments need to show strong leadership on the issue and provide services such as education, health and child protection; strong laws and policies to protect girls also need to be developed and uniformly implemented.