We meet VOW For Girls CEO, Clay Dunn

Through our work within the world of weddings, we are privileged to have been introduced to a vital organisation – VOW for Girls. The global movement was founded by human rights advocate Mabel van Oranje, who had a light bulb moment when attending a friend’s wedding: when people come together to celebrate love, might they also be able to help put girls in charge of their own futures at the same time? That’s what VOW for Girls does today: giving brands like McQueens and people who are celebrating love an opportunity to support girls around the world.

McQueens Flowers COO Lee Sansom sat down with VOW for Girls CEO Clay Dunn to find out more about the outstanding work of the organisation.

Lee - Hi Clay, thank you so much for sitting down with me today. Can you tell me about how VOW for Girls came about? 

CLAY:  VOW is the brainchild of global human rights activist Mabel van Oranje. She has long been a champion of girls' rights around the world, and for the cause of ending child marriage. Child marriage is a big problem – 12 million girls every year become brides. That’s more than the populations of London and New York. In her travels, Mabel met all of these incredible local organisations that are in a position to support girls, but saw that they had so few resources to work with. Then, at the wedding of friends, Mabel had an ‘ah ha’ moment. When people come together to celebrate love, might they also support girls at the same time? And that’s where the idea for VOW for Girls was born.

Photo credit: Ed Kashi/Talking Eyes Media


Lee - The wedding industry is central to VOW’s model – can you tell us about the “Love Is Our Business” pledge?

CLAY: VOW has a special relationship with the global wedding industry. The industry and its leaders have really championed our work since we launched. International wedding brands have rallied around our cause and event professionals from all over the world have supported our work and are excited about our model. We launched the “Love Is Our Business” initiative this year as a way for wedding professionals and wedding-aligned brands that celebrate love to use their voice and take a public pledge to say that every girl should be able to choose love on her own terms and no child should ever be a bride. We’ve been overwhelmed by the response, with more than 100 wedding professionals, brands, and media partners joining in.

Lee – VOW for Girls supports grassroots efforts to end child marriage – can you tell us about where the money goes and the impact of donations made to VOW for Girls?

CLAY: Thanks to generous donors, 100% of everything VOW raises from brands and individuals goes directly to support local efforts working with girls. Today, we have more than 175 grantee partners we are supporting in 6 countries around the world. Their work helps girls stay in school, learn about their rights, and learn job training and skills so they’re in a position to make choices for themselves about their lives and their futures. It’s truly life-changing work.

Lee – Child marriage has a big, negative impact on young people around the world. And I know that VOW is working to support a lot of the world’s most vulnerable girls. Through your experience with VOW for Girls, is there a girl’s story that stands out to you?

CLAY: Absolutely. The very first child bride I ever met was named Fartun. She told me that at just 14 years old, she came home from school one day to find a strange man in her house. Her father said she was going to become his wife. She told me, “No one asked what I thought or what I wanted – I thought it was the end of my life.” She married that man, but thanks to the support of family members, was able to leave that marriage. Today, at just 21 years old, Fartun helps run a local organisation that receives VOW funding and is helping girls just like her avoid becoming child brides. I’m in awe of her journey and the critical work she does – and we’re so proud to partner with her in it. There are women just like her all over the world, ready and willing to help girls, but in need of more resources to do so. That’s why our work at VOW is so critical, providing a lifeline of support for our partners around the globe. Together, we’re building a world where no child is ever a bride.

 Lee – At McQueens we’ve been inspired to create THE VOW bouquet to raise awareness and vital funds for the organisation. Can you tell us about any other inspiring or creative ways other partners in the wedding industry have supported the cause so far?

CLAY: Wedding industry professionals are incredibly creative in thinking about how to partner with us. They’re incorporating VOW into their businesses by donating in honour of new clients and making us a part of their gifting. Like McQueens is doing with THE VOW bouquet, they’re creating products for sale where a percentage goes to support our work. They’re inviting their colleagues in to support us and they’re bringing us into events that they’re involved with, often as the official charity partner. They are also importantly introducing us to their couples. We love all these creative ideas!

Lee – Of course, you don’t need to be a wedding professional or wedding-aligned business to get involved. VOW also works with engaged couples to help them use their weddings to support girls’ futures. How can engaged couples work with VOW for Girls?

CLAY: We work with couples and individuals – there’s no need to be coupled in order to support girls through VOW. For those that are coupled, many couples are choosing VOW as a way to bring even more meaning to their weddings, anniversaries and other celebrations of love. Couples getting married are asking for donations to VOW in addition to or in lieu of gifts. Some brides are turning bridal showers/kitchen teas into fundraisers. Other couples are ditching wedding favours and instead making a donation in honour of their guests. Individuals come in to support our work by bringing us into their celebrations, buying VOW-aligned products, or making us part of their celebrations as well. There’s no one way to incorporate VOW – the sky's the limit, and girls need our support!

You can purchase ‘THE VOW’ Bouquet through our website, available for delivery in the UK nationwide and in New York City, with a contribution per sale going to VOW for Girls.


Photography by Marc Bates

From across the UK to the city streets of New York, and the Australian beaches to the shores of lake Como, Marc Bates is ready to be wherever you are for the most important day of your life.

With a keen understanding of how precious these images are as well as the moments that create them, Marc will be by your side throughout the whole journey. Discover Marc's work here.