1 in 5 Women Worldwide Are Married Before Age 18

One in five women worldwide are married before age 18 — and Mabel van Oranje is trying to change that.

“The stories you hear about girls who are married at a young age are almost always the same,” the Girls Not Brides initiator and chair explained. “The sadness of having to leave school. The fear for the first wedding night. You know, the husband, a stranger, often a little bit older forcing themselves upon them.”

Van Oranje says she got involved in the issues of child marriage in 2010. When she started learning about it, she had no idea that it affected 12 million girls every year. It occurs around the world but it’s most prevalent in Niger, Nigeria, India, Bangladesh, Central African Republic, Chad, Brazil, Burkina Faso, and Ethiopia.

Girls Not Brides is a partnership of organizations committed to ending child marriage. They recently launched a new initiative called VOW, which harnesses proceeds from America’s $100 billion wedding industry and allows companies and couples to donate money to end child marriage.

“The idea for VOW was born actually at a wedding,” Oranje explained. “You know, more and more people when they get married they want to do something meaningful for other people. So I was wondering, can’t we make it possible for brides and grooms who get happily married here in America, in Europe, to make sure that when they say, ‘I do,’ that it becomes possible for a girl somewhere else in the world who isn’t 18 years old yet to say, ‘I don’t.’”

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