Justin Alexander, Savannah Miller, Viktor + Rolf and other members of the bridal industry have banded together to launch Vow Pro, a network of professionals working to help end child marriage.

Before showing its bridal collections virtually, the Justin Alexander Luxury Group held a roundtable discussion Friday afternoon to raise money for Vow to End Child Marriage. Vow ambassador Princess Mabel van Oranje of the Netherlands led the preshow talk. She was joined by Justin Alexander’s chief executive officer and creative director Justin Warshaw, partner and development manager Joshua Grimes, Miller and Viktor + Rolf’s ceo Andrea Collesei.

The problem of child marriage is a worldwide one. In June 2019, UNICEF reported that in the developing world, one in nine girls is married before they turn 15. Globally, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18. There are 650 million women and girls alive today who married before the age of 19.

Vow Pro supporters’ contributions will include donating a percentage of sales of their bridal collections to the organization, giving wedding dresses from their collections to the organization and serving as ambassadors by informing customers and brides-to-be about the problem of child marriage and using social media to support the initiative and spell out the change that is needed, van Oranje said. A fixed dollar amount for specific product can also be donated, such as what was done with Reem Acra’s “Paradise” dress, which earmarked a 10 percent donation to Vow. In addition, clients can be encouraged to align their registries, donate or purchase Vow product.

Van Oranje said, “I believe that every girl, regardless of where she is born, should have the opportunity to have a bright future.“

All donations to Vow will go “100 percent” to projects in the country where the wedding takes place, to end child marriage, she said. With no money going toward overhead expenses, she said the money is given to the Girls First Fund, a donor collaborative that champions community-led efforts so that girls can live free from child marriage.

She described her own wedding as “an absolutely wonderful day“ and her “utterly amazing” wedding dress with 248 bows that was a collaboration with Viktor + Rolf. While marriage is considered a happy event for many, “unfortunately that is not the case for the 12 million girls who get married every year before the age of 18 — all over the world. This is across continents, cultures and religions. For them their wedding day is the day they have to leave school, if they were ever allowed to go to school. It is a day when they have to go live with a man, whom they very often haven’t chosen themselves, and in many cases is older than they are. It is the day that they might get pregnant even though their bodies are not ready to give birth and they are really still children,” she said.

She added that wedding days often signal for child brides the start of a lifetime of physical, mental and sexual abuse. Instead of being joyous, marriage for these girls “is the end of their dreams and the end of a prosperous future.”

The United Nations has estimated that by the end of this decade there will be an additional 13 million girls getting married in addition to the 12 million who wed annually, she said. As for why there are so many child brides, the princess noted that some parents in India are motivated by the dowries that are paid to them. In Ethiopia, child marriage often continues from one generation to the next because “the community doesn’t really know any better. To try to end child marriage, local organizations need to be empowered,” she said.

In addition, in honor of International Day of the Girl, Vow is launching the “Take the #VowForGirls” campaign to encourage young female activists to join in the fight to end child marriage around the world.

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