On the eve of International Day of the Girl Child, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and Harry Potter actor Emma Watson today visited Malawi, Africa to shine a global spotlight on the need to end child marriage. She met with traditional chiefs and girls who have returned to school after having marriages annulled.

“Meeting with young girls, who like many in their country, are struggling with poverty and were pressured into early marriage, depriving them of their education in the process, made me realize just how important it is for women to be able to make their own choices,” the Beauty And The Beast actress said. “It’s so encouraging to see how such a harmful practice can be stopped when communities work together to pass laws, and then turn those laws into reality.”

In 2015, Malawi, which has one of the highest rates of child marriages in the world, passed the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act, raising the minimum age of marriage to 18. Since then, UN Women has worked with partners and tribal chiefs to ensure that the law is implemented at a local level.

President of Malawi professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, who is an Impact Champion of the HeForShe Campaign, also appointed a special task force to oversee the implementation of the law within the next five years.

In Dedza, a district in central Malawi, Watson also met with senior chief Inkosi Kachindamoto who has been working actively to end child marriages in the region. “With the help and collaboration of her local chiefs, mothers’ group and religious leaders, she has managed to annul almost 1,500 child marriages, sending the girls back to school,” the Harry Potter actress praised Kachindamoto. “Because of bold and brave leadership like this, things may start to change. It was amazing to be on the ground with UN Women to witness their work.”

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