The Link Between Child Marriage and Poverty

>> Saturday, February 4, 2012

There was an interesting article on The Huffington Post this week about the link between child marriage and poverty. According to the piece, 25,000 brides under the age of 18 get married every day, many to men twice their age or older. 1 in 7 of those brides are under age 15 and child marriage still (today! in 2012!) affects 10 million girls every year.

From the article:

"Ask any grade school girl if she wants to get married she might say, "Yes to the dress." Ask if she's ready to be a wife, have sex, give birth, be a mother, give up her family, friends, education and any hope for a career and she might reply, "Boys are yucky," a sentiment shared by most little girls regardless of her culture. Ask that girl's mother if early marriage and sex with an older man is what she hopes for her daughter and her answer might be similar to mine: "Oh, hell no." They just don't have any choice."

As I mentioned in a previous post, girls are still seen as inferior and as property in many parts of the world and are often "given" as a way to settle disputes between families. Yes, some of these child-bride weddings even contribute to the totals I shared in the global wedding revenue infograph. (It's okay to feel sickened by that.)

So how does a child bride affect the cycle of poverty? Here is some more insight on that from the article:

  • When a girl from a developing country gets married, she drops out of school, quits working and has children.   
  • Children raised by uneducated, unemployed mothers grow up uneducated and unemployed too. 
  • Adolescent girls are five times more likely to die in childbirth than adult women. 
  • The children she leaves behind are 3-10 times more likely to die within the next two years.
Discussion of this topic used to be relegated to certain NGO conversations and the occasional dissertation. Fortunately, that is changing. It has been included in reports by the United Nations for a while and was recently a topic at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and has also been included in legislation in Congress (which, sadly, they have voted against so far.) I'm glad that more people are starting to discuss it in mainstream venues, even if much more work still needs to be done. Ending this type of abuse and attack on human rights can't be done until people are willing to talk about it and work together to find and fund solutions.

If you're in the U.S., you can contact your congressional representatives and ask them to pass the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act (you can do this easily using this link). Girls are a gift, not gifts to be given. Each young girl, no matter what family or neighborhood she is born into, deserves to live a life of dignity and choice.


End of Year Donations + Tax Write Offs

>> Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's been a little quiet around here, but things are busy behind the scenes. There are new projects for Live Splendid that will be revealed in 2012 and I could not be more excited about them.

In the meantime, I wanted to post a reminder that donations made by December 31st can be used as a tax write-off for 2011. You can donate to your favorite non-profit organization or check out the Give Splendid page for wedding-related organizations.

Wishing you and yours a joyous holiday season and a splendid new year!


Welcome to Live Splendid

>> Thursday, June 23, 2011

I never dreamed of being an entrepreneur. It was the one thing I knew with 100% certainty I would never, ever do. All the business owners I knew had no social life, crumbling marriages and friendships, and walked around with a lifeless look in their eyes. It was cemented then: hell would have to freeze over before I ever opened up shop for myself.

Instead, I was going to change the world. This is the one thing I have always known with 100% certainty I absolutely would do. In this vein, I packed up, traveled halfway around the world, living and working in slums, rocking orphaned babies to sleep and teaching. Returning to the States was reverse culture shock in the most intense definition of the term. I went from having rice at every meal, no aircon, and a daily malaria net procedure to the toughest decision being whether or not I would use a flat iron or curling iron on my hair in the morning. Another thing was cemented: I was wrecked for "normal" life and knew the years ahead would never include a picket fence.

Somewhere along the way, I (ironically) wound up in the wedding industry. In the midst of life's odd paths, I found out that not only was I good at business, but I loved it as well. Eating the self-proclaimed words of "never going to happen" isn't always an unpleasant meal.

Changing the world is expensive. Tired of the red tape that comes along with non-profit funding, I went into business for myself for one main reason: to create a lifestyle where I could personally fund and work on outside humanitarian projects.

Lately though, I just can't escape the nagging feeling that changing the cycle of poverty can happen from within the wedding industry and not just from outside of it. For example, in February, India's Minister of Food announced that 15% of the country's grain and vegetables are used in social functions, the majority of which are weddings. Most of that food ends up wasted as it goes uneaten at the event. Add to that the fact that the country is near famine, and it's really not food they can afford to waste. In Tajikistan, they've passed laws that limit the number of wedding guests to no more than 150 people since 60% of the country's people live below the poverty line. Yet even facing the possibility of going bankrupt from a wedding, an austerity law is not going to change centuries-old cultural norms. And according to a report by the United Nations, one-third of all weddings in Pakistan are child brides, often used as a means of resolving disputes between families.

So how does this all tie together? Do weddings affect the distribution of wealth? Where are they contributing to gender violence and how can we reverse that? Are they connected to which girls in developing nations can get a higher education and which cannot? Can they be used to change the tide on gross poverty and injustice?

Live Splendid is a place to have those conversations. We'll ask a lot of questions, peel back layers and look at things that might make us uncomfortable for a bit. This isn’t to say weddings are bad -- far from it -- instead the purpose is to take an honest look at the way they (and the expectations around them) contribute to and shape society. Without the conversations, solutions can't be found.

Live Splendid is also a catalyst for getting involved. I really believe that we have the power to change the world in our lifetime and that we should each pour our energy into the causes we're personally passionate about. If your passion is yourself, you won't find much support for that here. A splendid life looks beyond the end of its own driveway.

Sound a little crazy and idealistic? Perhaps, but that's who I am. And I'd love it if you'd join me on this journey.