The Inimitable Legacy of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Champion for Ending Child Marriage

Jan 15, 2022

The revered Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who recently passed away at the age of 90, had a profound impact on the world that can hardly be measured. His legacy inspired a generation of human rights activists and advocates across the globe. He was an especially fierce supporter of ending child marriage throughout his career and had a large part in the creation of Girls Not Brides, a global network of civil society organizations from over 100 countries committed to ensuring girls are able to reach their full potential.

As part of his dedicated work towards ending child marriage, Archbishop Tutu worked closely with VOW For Girls co-founder and board member, Mabel van Oranje. Mabel attended the Archbishop’s funeral, where South African President Cyril Ramaphosa gave a touching eulogy which spoke of his many contributions to the cause:

“One of the causes that was dear to him and less well known, was campaigning together with her Royal Highness Mabel van Oranje, who is here with us today, against child marriage across the globe. I have learned how he travelled to villages in Ethiopia, India and Zambia to understand the circumstances under which young girls were being forced into marriage. He also took up this cause with The Elders, the group of senior leaders brought together by President Mandela in 2007. Such was his stamina, such was his commitment to social justice for all, that he took up the cudgels on behalf of millions of people around the world.”

Girls Not Brides, India Photo Credit: Graham Crouch

This tenacity for justice and advancing girls’ futures led him to be a powerful advocate for ending child marriage until his retirement, inspiring all those in pursuit of equity who came after him. President Ramaphosa closed his eulogy with a moving quote that honored Tutu’s impressive determination and commitment:

“I recently came across these words which provide a fitting end to any tribute to Desmond Tutu:
‘Tears are sometimes an inappropriate response to death. When a life has been lived completely honestly, completely successfully, or just completely, the correct response to death’s perfect punctuation mark, is a smile.’
His was a life lived honestly and completely. He has left the world a better place. We remember him with a smile.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. We are all indebted to Tutu’s legacy, and it is our proud duty to continue his work here at VOW.