Girls Not Brides to receive Geuzen Medal 2018

The Geuzen Medal for 2018 will be awarded to Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage. This was announced today, Friday, 12 January, by the Geuzenpenning Foundation. Princess Mabel van Oranje, Chair of Girls Not Brides, and Executive Director Lakshmi Sundaram, will be presented with the medal. The award ceremony will be held on Tuesday, 13 March 2018 in the Grote Kerk (Great Church) of Vlaardingen. The Geuzen Medal is awarded as a tribute to people and organisations working for human rights and who oppose dictatorship, discrimination and racism.

Marrying for love is still not the most normal thing in the world in the 21st century. More than 700 million women alive today were married before the age of 18. Each year, 15 million girls are married and their youth comes to an abrupt end. This is unacceptable, according to Girls Not Brides; an organisation which has been working to end child marriage since 2011.

Girls Not Brides is a worldwide partnership. Approximately a thousand organisations in over 95 countries work together with one common goal: to stop child marriage within a generation. Girls Not Brides member organisations work across sectors including health, education, human rights and humanitarian response and range from small grassroots groups to large international organisations.

Child marriage has a devastating effect on the lives of millions of girls. Marriage for these girls often means that they have to leave school and many quickly become pregnant. Child marriage can have life-threatening consequences: complications during pregnancy and childbirth is the leading cause of death in girls aged 15 to 19.

Princess Mabel van Oranje

Girls Not Brides started in 2011 and was co-founded by Princess Mabel van Oranje and The Elders. The Elders is an independent group of world leaders who work for peace and human rights. The Elders was founded by Nelson Mandela and Mabel van Oranje was its first director from 2008 to 2012. The Elders includes eminent members such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan, Ban Ki-Moon, Jimmy Carter and Gro Harlem Brundtland, the first female prime minister of Norway. Martti Ahtisaari, who received the Geuzen Medal in 2008, is also a member of The Elders.

As Chair of Girls Not Brides, Mabel van Oranje tirelessly works to bring attention to one of the greatest problems of our time. Or, as she said in one of her speeches: “What do you remember about your own wedding day? Was that the happiness of that day? Was it love? Dancing with friends and family? Or was your wedding day the day that you had to leave school? Was it the day that you had to leave your family to go and live with a man whom you had never met and was twice your age? Was it the day that you became pregnant, even though you were still a child yourself?”

The director of Girls Not Brides is Lakshmi Sundaram. Since 2012, she has transformed Girls Not Brides from a special project of The Elders into an independent organisation with members all over the world.

Theory of Change

There is no simple solution to ending child marriage. Girls Not Brides has therefore developed the Theory of Change. Four strategies play a key role: make girls resilient and empower them, mobilise families and communities; provide support and services to unmarried and married girls; and create and implement good laws and policies. These are not four individual strategies, but strategies that are all linked together and strengthen each other.

Girls Not Brides the Netherlands

In 2016, thirteen Dutch members of the Girls Not Brides global partnership came together to form Girls Not Brides the Netherlands. These organisations included Kinderpostzegels, the University of Amsterdam, Save the Children Netherlands, Simavi, Plan Nederland and Amref Flying Doctors. Girls Not Brides the Netherlands wants to share knowledge about child marriage and keep this subject on the Dutch political agenda. Approximately 250 child marriages take place in the Netherlands each year.

Building worldwide commitment

Since its inception, the Girls Not Brides global partnership and its members have tirelessly worked to ensure that child marriage is on the global agenda and that it remains there. Many national, regional and local governments are now much more aware of the damaging impact that child marriage has, and are providing support to girls to give them a different future. Furthermore, many countries have taken steps to tighten their laws against child marriage; some of them have also started campaigns against this practice. The goal is now to stop child marriage by 2030, as included in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. However, there is still a lot of work to be done. Until every girl has the right to choose for herself when, whether and with whom they will marry, the work to stop child marriage will never be over.

Geuzen Medal

The Geuzen Medal has been awarded to various organisations and people since 1987. The Geuzen Medal is an initiative of the Geuzenpenning Foundation. This organisation was established by the former Dutch resistance fighters who were active in World War II. The Geuzen Medal is intended to honour and support today’s freedom fighters and human rights activists. The Chairman is Frans Weisglas, the former chairman of the Lower House.

The Geuzen Medal was previously awarded to people such as the Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt (2004), the Tunisian human rights lawyer Radhia Nasraoui (2013), the Swedish human rights activist Thomas Hammarberg (2014) and to organisations such as Free Press Unlimited (2015) and MOAS (2016). Last year the Geuzen Medal went to Alice Nkom and Michel Togué, two lawyers in Cameroon who are committed to defending arrested gays and lesbians. Further information about the Geuzen Medal can be found at www.geuzenpenning.nl.

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For further information about the Geuzen Medal and the winners, please contact Hjalmar Teunissen on +31 (0)10-593 1757 or +31 (0)6 52 53 3074. You can also contact Girls Not Brides through their press team on +44 203 725 5867 or media@GirlsNotBrides.org