Think back to when you were 13. What were your main concerns? Were you thinking about becoming a parent soon? Or preparing for your actual wedding?
I hope not. But, unfortunately, these concerns are all too real for millions of girls around the world living in communities where child marriage is culturally and traditionally accepted. As No Ceilings data shows, 1 in 4 girls globally was married before age 18 and if the trend continues, 140 million more will become child brides by 2020.
Pramilla was almost one of them.
At the age of eight, she was married off and expected to live with her husband’s family when she turned 18. Her future was predetermined, and she spent her formative years wondering and worrying about how her husband would treat her and if she would be allowed to continue her education.
When she was 17 – just one year before her life would change forever – Pramilla was given the chance she deserved to end her marriage with the help of an Indian organization called Vikalp Sansthan.
Pramilla’s story is featured in this No Ceilings video:
(Update: Since the video was made, Pramilla decided to end her marriage and is continuing her education. Many girls, however, do not have the agency or choice to end their own marriage, and – what’s more – are often married well before they turn 18.)
Her story puts a face on a global challenge and reminds us that, no matter how far away an issue may seem, we can all connect to it on an elemental level. Every child deserves a chance to live up to his or her full potential, regardless of gender or geography. Pramilla is no exception. Her story is real and it evokes an emotional response.
At least it did for me. And for Brittany.
After seeing the video, Brittany decided she wanted to do something to help. She reached out to Vikalp and, today, Brittany donates 10 percent of the profits she makes from her photography business, Love Conquers, to the Rajasthan-based nonprofit.
Not only is Brittany raising critical funds that will enable Vikalp to help more girls like Pramilla, but she is also raising awareness among her clients and getting more people involved in the agenda to end child marriage.
As daunting as the issue of child marriage may seem, Brittany is proof that each of us has the power to effect positive change in the world.
I asked Brittany to tell us a bit more about how she was compelled to take action.
Can you tell us a bit about Vikalp and what in particular impressed you about their work?
Vikalp aims to solve for the root cause of child marriage. To me, this is important. As a women’s studies scholar, I learned that this approach is far more effective than the alternative “band-aid” approach that treats a problem after the fact.
One way Vikalp is addressing the root cause of child marriage is by empowering and mobilizing youth. The organization has initiated campaigns such as “Our Daughter’s Rights” and “Send Our Daughter to School” to confront the common narrative of child marriage in order to challenge and change social and gender norms.
Vikalp is aware that girls who complete secondary school are six times less likely to become child brides. Rather than solely focusing on preventing a girl from becoming a young wife, Vikalp also supports girls to gain an education and ultimately tap into their full potential to become whoever they want to be.
What does this work mean to you?
Throughout my life, I have been on the front lines of the battle for the rights of women. Whether in a slum in Uganda, a rape crisis center in South Africa, a rural village in India, or even on a university campus in the United States – I have stood alongside the women of the world as they proclaimed their own rights and worth. All cut from different cloth, but fighting for the same thing.
In my experiences overseas, I have seen over and over again that child marriage is an underlying cause for various issues, including complications (or even death) from early pregnancy, violence against girls and women, illiteracy, and the cycle of poverty. Organizations like Vikalp reaffirm my faith in a better life for girls and women everywhere.
When I stand amongst company such as Vikalp, I am reminded that I’m on the right side of this effort.
How do your clients react when you tell them that 10 percent of your photography fee goes to help end child marriage?
I let anyone interested in my photography services know about my commitment even before they officially become clients, because I believe that by simply committing to my business, clients are also supporting this agenda, and can play a role in giving back. Many clients have expressed their complete lack of knowledge of the topic, and their appreciation for the insight and eagerness to get involved.
What you’re doing is a great example of how individuals, in so many different ways, have the power to make a positive difference in the world. What advice would you give to a small business owner interested in adding a social impact element to their business?
The best advice I can give is to find a cause that you’re truly passionate about and commit to it. The trajectory of my career as a humanitarian has followed an organic path of supporting women in any capacity. By being truly passionate about my commitment to the cause, I was able to direct my business plan with ease. Simply put, I wanted to support one grassroots organization that I felt most connected to, and I wanted to support an organization that valued the art of documentary photography.
I knew that even when I wasn’t traversing the globe and lending a hand on the front lines, I could still be of use from afar. With that, I combined my passions of women’s rights, photography, and love.
Ending child marriage is a target included in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. As Brittany demonstrates, we can all do something to help realize this important global agenda by 2030. Even small steps will add up to make a big difference.
To learn more about No Ceilings and the Sustainable Development Goals, visit noceilings.org.