'The Bridal Uniform', a shocking piece at the HUM Bridal Couture Week highlights the problem of child marriages in Pakistan through a school uniform

Date: Sunday, December 10, 2017

Press release

Lahore, Pakistan — The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) collaborated with Ali Xeeshan, a renowned Pakistani clothes designer, to develop a controversial piece worn by a child who walked down the ramp as the show stopper, in the finale of Bridal Couture Week 2017. Through this startling campaign, UN Women aims to make people aware of the issue of child marriages in Pakistan, their life-long implications and how to take preventive action in order to address it and help the potential and present victims.

Photo: Stopmotion Digital

This year's bridal couture week was much the same as previous years, where and bride after bride walked out on the ramp wearing magnificently extravagant outfits. However, right at the end of the bridal week, one specific outfit stood out from the rest and caught everyone's attention. People stopped and stared at it for a longer while. It was a school uniform, which was embellished with heavy motifs, worn by a girl. A striking symbol to raise awareness and highlight something that is still a grave issue in Pakistan. This symbol; the bridal uniform was used to question the unfortunate nature of many marriages that should not be a cause of celebration for the brides, or even the nation as a whole. The horrible trade-off that takes place when a child is deprived of her right to an education, and instead is being dressed to be someone's wife, is what this campaign targets.

Photo: Stopmotion Digital

Pakistan's Child Marriage Restraint Act (CMRA) sets the legal age of marriage to be 16 for women and 18 for men, but it is still estimated that more than 20 per cent of women are married off before the age of 18 and 3 per cent overall do not even cross the age of 15 before they get married. There have been efforts to increase the legal age of marriage from 16 to 18 for women all across the nation but this has faced criticism and resistance. Despite having dire consequences for defying the legislation, child marriages are still a norm in Pakistan.

The campaign was further launched through a website and on social media after the live showcase of the bridal uniform, and the campaign aims to evoke emotions within people to take action. UN Women redirected the public to the campaign website; www.thebridaluniform.com, urging people to sign a petition that could turn this conversation into a topic of discussion in the Parliament. A donation fund on the website has been set up and funds will directly go to the non-governmental organization; Kashf Foundation. Kashf Foundation plans to take this initiative to the next level by conducting an on-ground activation that speaks directly to the masses. Moreover, part of the proceeds from Ali Xeeshan's collection were donated to Pirbhat Women's Development Society and Sujag Sansar, organizations striving to end violence against women and working against early child marriages in Pakistan.

Jamshed Kazi, Country Representative for UN Women Pakistan said: "It's astounding how women aren't allowed to drive or vote before the age of 18 and at the same time, they're forced into this lifelong commitment way before they reach that age."

This campaign is created together with BBDO Pakistan and aims to use country-wide awareness as a way to push forward the effective implementation of the legislation.

For the first time, a collaboration between the esteemed organization, UN Women, together with a well-known Pakistani designer; Ali Xeeshan, and with the cooperative role of multiple NGOs such as; Kashf Foundation, Pirbhat Women's Development Society and Sujag Sansar, focusing specifically on ending child marriage, shows how an unconventional collaboration for a good cause can lead to change for the better.

Sign the petition and raise your voice to put an end to #childmarriages: www.thebridaluniform.com/sign-petition/ The #BridalUniform is a collaboration between Ali Xeeshan Theater Studio and UN Women Pakistan.”

For more information contact:

Anam Abbas
Communications Officer UN Women
E-mail: anam.abbas@unwomen.org

Henriette Bjoerge
Innovations & Donor Liaison Officerม UN Women
E-mail: henriette.bjoerge@unwomen.org