“Think about the day of your wedding,” Mabel van Oranje, Board Chair of Girls Not Brides, said. “What do you remember? The happiness? The love? […] The partnership for life that was starting? Or was your wedding the day in which you had to leave school? […]Was it the day that you became pregnant, even though you yourself are still a child?”
On May 9, 2014, van Oranje spoke about the global problem of child marriage before IWHC’s Leadership Council at its quarterly luncheon. Following a brief talk, van Oranje and IWHC President Françoise Girard answered questions from the audience about the progress and challenges of ending child marriage in a generation.
The event was opened and closed by Marlene Hess, IWHC Board chair.
A global advocate for freedom, justice and development for two decades, Mabel van Oranje is the initiator and chair of Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage. She is also co-founder and executive chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations and is a member of the advisory boards of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, Crisis Action, Global Witness, the Open Society Foundations and The Elders.
Françoise Girard is a highly regarded advocate for women’s rights and sexual and reproductive rights and health. She is an expert on strategic philanthropy in the developing world, and served as Director of the Public Health Program at the Open Society Foundations from 2006-2011.
During her remarks, van Oranje spoke about the founding of Girls Not Brides 2 ½ years ago, and its growth to more than 350 member organizations, including IWHC, from over 60 countries today. Since the organization was established, international attention to the issue has grown, not only from Western organizations and donors, but also from government leaders and civil society organizations in the Global South, where child marriage continues to hamper development.
She also explained the critical need to include the issue in the Post-2015 development framework. “It is very clear that we need to get ending child marriage into that agenda. Because it will mean political will, it will mean more financial resources, and it will also mean that there’s a global agreement that ending child marriage matters.” Van Oranje urged the audience to use any influence they have to persuade U.S. politicians and donors to support the issue.
“I have no doubt that a world without child marriage is a world in which everybody will be healthier, better educated, more prosperous, and more equal. So let girls be girls, and not brides.”
Watch the video of van Oranje's talk:
The IWHC Leadership Council is a special group of women and men who share a broad interest in the U.S. foreign policy agenda and are committed to women's health and human rights globally. Learn more about the Leadership Council.