Marriage is often something we take for granted. A beautiful celebration to mark the official joining of two people in matrimony. Be it religious or non-religious, a marriage is full of joy, happiness, and emotion that we remember for the rest of our lives, isn't it? As we look fondly over the photographs of friends and family and reminisce about the smiles and laughter.
We were shocked and devastated when we learned that's not always the case. Did you know that every 3 seconds a child becomes a bride?
That's 12 million girls a year. During our time in St Moritz earlier this year, we heard from the fantastic Clay Dunn & his mission at VOW for Girls, a charity set up to support children who are being forced into marriages, and put a stop to it. Their mission statement speaks for itself:
"To end child marriage by building a connected groundswell of love and support for every girl whose right to own her future is at risk." - VOW for Girls
And we certainly agree! We couldn't not get involved with their efforts! But what is child marriage?
What is child marriage?
Vow for Girls state that a "Child marriage includes any marriage or informal union where one person is under the age of 18. Most of these unions impact girls and are not rooted in love or choice."
UNICEF also say that 720 million women alive today were married before they reached 18 years old. And with the effects of the recent pandemic, they expect a further 100 million more in the next decade. It is a practice that reaches beyond the boundaries of countries, religions, and cultures and there isn't one catch-all solution. It happens because of many issues within communities such as gender inequality, devaluing girls' lives compared to the lives of boys, or social norms and practices that filter down from generation to generation.
It affects education, with many girls being forced to drop out of schools after marriage. Child marriage also affects their ability to make money, limiting their job opportunities and ability to rise from poverty. Their personal safety is certainly in danger, being exposed to a high risk of assault, and physical and psychological violence. And children often don't enjoy the legal benefits that adults have, meaning they have fewer legal rights, such as the right to a divorce, trapping them in the situation for many years. But what can be done?
So how do Vow for Girls support their vision?
Well, Vow for girls are doing this by working with lots of locally-led solutions. People who know the real situation on the ground and have the agency to affect real change. This includes working to keep girls in school because education is vital to support children in their life journey, job training is given so their opportunity for employment increases and independence is cultivated, healthcare services are provided to support girls and ensure their health needs are met, and advocacy for girls' rights helps improve the political and social landscape so a better future can be forged and outdated, unsafe practices can be changed. So, how can we help with this?
What are we doing to help?
We knew The Travelling Hands needed to join the movement to end child marriage and support VOW for Girls. The Travelling Hands support the VOW for Girls vision of a world in which no child is ever a bride. So now, we will make a donation from our wedding bookings to VOW for Girls to support their cause and to help girls make their own choices and love on their own terms.
If you want to know more, we encourage you to head to the Vow for Girls website where you can also donate privately too.
Written by The Travelling Hands wordsmith, John Collins & Tom Warner