Twelve million girls a year are forced to marry before the age of 18. That’s one in five women worldwide or a girl every three seconds. 650,000,000 of the women who are alive today were forced to get married as a child. Princess Mabel van Oranje, the sister-in-law of King Willem-Alexander, has co-launched VOW For Girls, a new initiative to put an end to child marriage worldwide.
Princess Mabel van Oranje has launched a new initiative named VOW For Girls. The new campaign was announced in honour of the International Day of the Girl on the 11th of October. People were encouraged to share photo’s of their ring fingers as a token for their vow to end child marriage by 2030. On the website of VOW, the organisation explains: “In a time it takes a couple to say ‘I Do’ a girl is denied her choice to say ‘I Don’t’.”
In the second part of the campaign, the organisation encourages people who are going to get married, to put a donation to VOW on their wedding list for when guests want to buy the happy couple a present. In this way, every time someone says ‘I Do’, they give the opportunity to girls to say ‘I Don’t’.
In an interview about the campaign, Princess Mabel, the widow of the late Prince Friso van Oranje, explained the negative effects of child marriage. She said: “The stories you hear about girls who are married at a young age are almost always the same. The sadness of having to leave school, the fear of the first wedding night. You know the husband, a stranger often, a little bit older forcing themselves upon them.”
It is not only the child marriage itself that is as a negative, traumatic experience. There are so many nefast effects in the long run as Princess Mabel of Orange explains: “(The girls go) living with their in-laws and become in many cases almost like a domestic servant. The violence that often comes with marriage at a young age. Then these girls, you know, who get pregnant, when their bodies are still the bodies of little children themselves and then the horrors of having to give childbirth when their bodies aren’t ready yet. These are really horror stories.”
In the interview, the daughter-in-law of Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands also talked about the reasons child marriage still happens so often. She said: “The reasons are varied. Sometimes it’s poverty, When you marry your daughter off at a young age, that’s one less mouth to feed. Sometimes it has to do with the sexual security: the fear of a girl to get pregnant before she is actually married and thereby shame the family. I’ve also met so many girls who got married just because in their communities that’s the way they have been doing things generation after generation.”
But it all comes back to this: “Inequality between girls and boys, men and women. The idea that a girl is of less value, that she’s a burden that you need to get rid of as quickly as you can.”
Princess Mabel van Oranje has been an advocate to end child marriage since 2010. She initiated “Girls not Brides” and is currently chair of the organisation. The Princess is determined to make sure that every girl anywhere in the world can decide whether they want to get married, with whom they want to get married and when they want to get married.