Weddings can be a beautiful occasion celebrating the union of two people in love. But for 15 million girls this year, their wedding will amount to a prison sentence with severe consequences on their lives and wellbeing. Partnering with wedding blog Bridal Musings, UNICEF's latest video of a "storybook wedding" that isn't is its latest effort to shine a spotlight on this painful reality for many children around the world.
The gripping video first pans to preparations for a contemporary Western wedding, showing the 11-year-old bride getting ready for her big day but never actually revealing her face. But after the grand walk down the aisle, the camera finally focuses on her face, unveiling that of a shockingly young girl.
The release of the scripted video coincides with the launch of UNICEF and UNFPA's first-ever global initiative to eliminate child marriage and help protect millions of girls from becoming child brides. It is a raw reminder of an outdated, deeply harmful practice that still exists today in many cultures in the East and the West.
The consequences of child marriage cannot be understated. The practice perpetuates poverty, fosters domestic violence and sexually transmitted diseases, disempowers child brides with little access to education, healthcare and safety, and violates basic human rights.
"The world has awakened to the damage child marriage causes to individual girls, to their future children, and to their societies," UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake told A Plus in a press release. "This new global program will help drive action to reach the girls at greatest risk — and help more girls and young women realize their right to dictate their own destinies. This is critical now because if current trends continue, the number of girls and women married as children will reach nearly 1 billion by 2030 — 1 billion childhoods lost, 1 billion futures blighted."