Not the kind of pretty subject we're used to being associated with getting married. But nevertheless, one that I feel needs to be discussed.
Child marriage can be mistaken as being an issue that doesn't affect westerners. It does, with children as young as eight being forced into marriage, it is a global issue and one that I believe hugely affects women's empowerment whether directly impacted or not.
This video is a real eye-opener.
For many of us weddings are aspirational. We are able to share in the sheer beauty and joy that marriage brings. To love and be loved, to be respected and adored. To be granted the freedom of choice, to enjoy the indulgence and frivolity. It is incredibly hard to imagine that the meaning of marriage can be so sinister for others.
With stats like 15 million girls each year being forced into marriage before they turn 18, to men, often decades older; notwithstanding the physical and sexual abuse that often goes hand-in-hand, it's hard not to stop and pay attention. To think some governments still haven't changed their legislation on under age marriage, in 2017, is untenable.
I was recently invited to a press conference to discuss child marriage with powerful influencers from a cross sector of industries taking strident steps to help in end child marriage by 2030; including Chantal Khoueiry the passionate founder Brides do Good, who may have discovered an easy way for many women to be able help.
Brides do Good is a pioneering social enterprise that offers newlyweds the opportunity to donate and brides-to-be the opportunity to purchase; beautiful luxury pre-loved and sample designer wedding gowns online at an affordable price, with the unprecedented charitable proposition to address the global challenge of eradicating child marriage by 2030 through partner charities Plan International and Too Young to Wed and ethical brands such as SeeMe
There is a lot of psychology attached to bridal fashion. What women choose to wear on their wedding day holds huge meaning. It has influence, from what it looks like, what it means, how it makes women feel, the stories it holds and at times, family history. Chantal recognised meaning behind a wedding dress and also the huge waste of purchasing and only wearing an expensive dress once. She recognised that wedding dresses can be re-purposed for a greater cause through women, who have voices, to do something to help child brides, who don't.
"Women are becoming much more conscious with what they buy, they are looking for experiences more than just possessions. It is such a beautiful way to connect real women and protect girls from child marriage at the same time," Chantal Khoueiry.
Leading brands including; Alexander McQueen, Oscar De La Renta, Valentino, Marchesa, Rosa Clara, Lela Rose, Temperley London, Stewart Parvin, Phillipa Lepley, Browns Brides and Ian Stuart to name a few, are already involved with the cause. Making it easier for brides who appreciate designer products to access them at a price-point they can afford, whilst simultaneously donating a percentage of the sale to help end child marriage.
Louise Roe with a model wearing her donated Pronovias dress to Brides Do Good
Along with Chantal, I also had the great pleasure of interviewing celebrity, TV presenter and newlywed Louise Roe; one of the first to donate her couture Pronovias designer wedding dress to Brides do Good after marrying her husband Mackenzie in October 2016.
"When I decided to donate my dress, I wanted to write a note to the new owner.
"My story is now becoming her story.
"I shared how my wedding was the happiest day of my life, I shared about our wedding at Eton College, how I went to Spain with my mum to have the dress made and then went onto practical advice; such as; to be careful not to rip the delicate lace sleeves when you put your arm in it! I went from poetic to practical!
I think we all need to be educated on the facts about child marriage, no matter how painful, we need to know more about what is happening, whilst helping train women and communities to teach them that they can be a single mum. Which is very hard in some cultures. It's not just about making child marriage illegal, it's about the 'what next'.
Keeping these women in schools, educating and training them in a vocation is so important. I believe this in turn will have an amazing impact on female empowerment and not just women in those communities, but in LA, in London, in all of us," Louise Roe.
A version of this article was first published on Nu Bride
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