History of Unchained

Unchained has made extraordinary achievements in its short history, under the leadership of founder/executive director Fraidy Reiss. Here are some highlights:

2017

~ Unchained’s work with the law firm White & Case to end child marriage in America wins the 2017 Impact Award. The prestigious international award, which the Thomson Reuters Foundation presents each year in London, recognizes projects that demonstrate significant impact for an NGO or social enterprise, its community and beyond.

~ Unchained is granted special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), giving the organization  access not only to ECOSOC but also to its many subsidiary bodies, the various human-rights mechanisms of the United Nations and special events organized by the president of the General Assembly.

~ The movement Unchained started and continues to lead, to end child marriage, explodes into a national movement. The bill Unchained helped to write in New Jersey is approved by the legislature (but vetoed by the governor), and bills to end or reduce child marriage — most of which Unchained helped to write — also are introduced in California, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas.

~ Unchained’s work to end child marriage in America is nominated for a Reuters TrustLaw Impact Award.

~ Washington Post publishes Fraidy’s op-ed article about child marriage, on the front page of the Sunday Outlook section. The article reveals that nearly a quarter-million children as young as 12 were married in the US between 2000 and 2010, mostly girls wed to adult men. The op-ed is among the five most-read articles on the Post website.

~ Fraidy is featured in January on BBC’s The Conversation, talking about forced marriage. She and the organization are featured in countless radio, TV, print and online news pieces in the US and around the world about Unchained’s work to end child marriage in America; the pieces include one on Public Radio International’s The World.

~ Unchained receives enough funding to promote the part-time Social Worker to a full-time Director of Client Services and to create a Communications and Policy Associate position.

2016

~ By year’s end, Unchained has helped or is helping more than 270 women and girls.

~ Fraidy is featured in the New York Daily News, on PBS NewsHour and Al Jazeera America, and by many other television, radio and print news outlets.

~ The bill Unchained helped to write to end child marriage advances in New Jersey, passing in the Assembly with not a single “no” vote – thanks to Unchained’s tireless advocacy. (The bills in New York and Maryland do not get enough support, and they die.)

~ Some 35 attorneys attend Unchained’s annual CLE course on family law, presented in partnership with Rutgers Institute for Professional Education. The course is free for attorneys who commit to representing an Unchained client pro bono.

~ More than 10,000 emails are sent as part of Unchained’s email campaign to legislators and governors, urging them to end child marriage.

~ Unchained hosts a Chain-In in Newark. Some 35 people wear bridal gowns and veils, chain their arms and tape their mouths to protest forced and child marriage.

~ Unchained hires its second staffer, a part-time Social Worker, and moves into a professional office (and out of the executive director’s home).

~ Fraidy is invited to speak about child marriage at a United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW60) side event.

~ Fraidy is nominated for the prestigious DVF People’s Voice Award.

2015

~ By year’s end, Unchained has helped or is helping more than 200 women on girls, thanks to a team of more than 400 volunteers.

~ Unchained’s bill to end child marriage is introduced in the New York Assembly, thanks to Asw. Amy Paulin.

~ Unchained’s executive director writes an op-ed, published in the New York Times, about America’s child marriage problem; it sparks a national discussion about child marriage in the US.

~ The Pixel Project names Fraidy one of 16 female role models around the world fighting to end violence against women.

~ The South Asian Bar Association of New Jersey presents Unchained with its Public Interest Award.

~ Unchained hires its first full-time, paid staffer, in August: Fraidy (who until now has been volunteering her services as executive director).

~ Unchained organizes a historic Chain-In in New York City; participants chain their arms and tape their mouths to protest forced marriage.

~ Unchained presents at a groundbreaking meeting at the White House about forced marriage.

~ The New York Times writes a glowing story about Unchained (just one example of the extensive, international media attention Unchained’s work continues to garner).

2014

~ New Jersey’s governor signs into law the bill Unchained wrote to help domestic violence survivors (S1524/A1676).

~ Unchained is featured by numerous media outlets, including various NPR shows, Al Jazeera and Sky Atlantic (in the UK).

~ Unchained introduces a day-long training course in family law, given for free to attorneys who commit to representing an Unchained client pro bono.

2013

~ The bill Unchained wrote to help domestic violence survivors in New Jersey is introduced in the state legislature, thanks to Sen. Loretta Weinberg.

~ Unchained is featured in numerous media outlets, including Huffington Post, Truthout, Trust.org, Haaretz, Jewish Daily Forward, Times of Israel, Metro New York and NBC-TV.

2012

~ By year’s end, Unchained already has helped or is helping 55 women and girls to flee arranged/forced marriages.

~ Fraidy writes an op-ed, published in the Star-Ledger, about women losing custody of their children when leaving their arranged marriages in the Orthodox Jewish community

~ The IRS approves Unchained in February as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charity.

2011

~ Fraidy writes an op-ed, published in the Jewish Daily Forward, about religious divorce laws that leave women “chained.”

~ Unchained’s business plan calls for helping five women in year one and 10 women in year 2; that goal is quickly shown to be way too small (see above).

~ Fraidy forms Unchained as a nonprofit entity in New Jersey.