We Heart: The New Initiative Empowering Couples Who Say “I Do” to Help Girls Say “I Don’t”

Couples tying the knot in the U.S. can now do their part to save children from forced marriages around the world—simply by purchasing and registering for the products and wedding experiences they want and need. 

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The VOW initiative unites a coalition of influential brands and empowers couples to fight child marriage while they purchase and register for products for their own weddings. VOW partners will donate a portion of profits from products and experiences purchased through the program to the Girls First Fund, which supports local organizations working to end child marriage on the ground across Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The effort launched with support from some of the most influential brands in the wedding industry. The Knot has launched a “Knot Gifts Back” program donating proceeds to VOW. Crate and Barrel has pledged $100,000 to the initiative. Malia Mills is donating 100 percent of net proceeds for special VOW items through this year. Anyone can also support VOW by giving directly to the org or texting VOW to 44321.

“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,'” Mabel van Oranje, the storied human rights activist who launched VOW and previously ran Girls Not Brides, said in a statement.”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.”

In many communities, girls are often seen as an economic burden, and marriage is seen as a “way out,” transferring the responsibility for her well-being to another man. Persistent sexism and a lack of opportunities for girls, economically and educationally, also increases their vulnerability to child marriage. “Sometimes, it’s poverty that drives it,” van Oranje explained to A-Plus. “Sometimes it’s tradition. Sometimes it’s the fear that she will get pregnant before being married and thereby dishonor the family. But in the end, it always has to do with the inequality between girls and boys.”

12 million girls become child brides every year throughout the world. Now, the 1.8 million couples who choose to enter into marriages in the U.S. each year can support them and help ensure that they find justice and the resources they need to improve their lives.

Kohinur Khyum Tithila is a journalist based in Bangladesh. She is a Fulbright scholar and received her second master’s degree in Magazine, Newspaper, & Online Journalism from Syracuse University, first master’s degree in criminology and criminal justice from Dhaka University, and bachelor’s degree in English from East West University. Kohinur writes about LGBTQ and women’s issues, feminism, crime, secularism, social justice and human rights. She is also addicted to anything caffeinated.

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