Every three seconds around the globe, an underage girl is forced into an arranged marriage.
According to UNICEF, an estimated 12 million girls will become child brides this year alone. Not only does arranged marriage rob young girls of volition and power, but it also isolates them, stunts their education, and puts them at higher risk of domestic abuse.
By working with 177 communities around the world, nonprofit VOW for Girls has made it their mission to end child marriage in this lifetime and empower girls through educational and economic opportunities.
Princess Mabel Van Oranje of the Dutch royal family founded the nonprofit in 2018 after attending a wedding where the couple accepted donations in lieu of gifts.
“It made me realize that we could combine these moments of celebration and the power of the wedding industry to address the urgent issue of child marriage,” Mabel told Good Good Good in an exclusive interview.
In their primary campaign, VOW for Girls invites wedding couples to set up a charitable wedding registry and encourage donations to fund VOW’s tireless efforts to advance girl’s rights. 100% of the proceeds go directly to grassroots communities in Asia, Africa, and Latin America that are dedicated to ending child marriage.
“The majority of these community-based organizations are led by women and girls, many of whom have escaped child marriages themselves,” Mabel said. “They provide vital services, education, health, and resources, as well as helping girls realize their potential.”
Since the initiative launched five years ago, over 8,000 couples have donated to VOW’s cause. As a result, 260,000 girls have been directly impacted by life-changing grants that furthered their education, improved healthcare access, and trained them for future careers.
Mabel said that she has been blown away by the hard work and dedication of grantee organizations. She cited the achievements of the Mariposa DR Foundation in the Dominican Republic, which seeks to end generational poverty through education.
When their Center for Girls started eight years ago, they set a goal that every girl they served in their community would make it to the eighth grade. Today, all of their girls sail through eighth grade, and on to high school and even college.
“This is the type of progress and success that we are seeing around the world,” Mabel said. “It gives me endless hope that we can create a world where girls can be girls, not brides.”
At 55, Mabel has spent decades establishing herself as an international human rights activist, but cites some of her biggest role models as Malala Yousafzai, Greta Thunberg, and the young grassroots leaders she meets on a daily basis.
“These young women are boldly taking a stand and changing their communities,” Mabel said. “Slowly but surely, we are watching the status of women change, and with each success, other girls are inspired to take a stand in their own community.”