Education key to ending child marriages, Harry tells Nepal Girl Summit

Prince Harry Support Womens Rights in Nepal

Prince Harry has thrown his support behind Nepal's fight to end child marriages, telling a summit the cycle of illiteracy, poverty and ill health it leads to must be broken with education.

Harry spoke out about the practice, which condemns young girls to a life with few opportunities, as he opened the Nepal Girl Summit with the nation's first woman president, Bidya Devi Bhandari, who has campaigned for women's rights.

The Nepalese government event has brought together activists, experts, community leaders and young women from across the country, to share knowledge and best practice and encourage their society to move away from child marriages.

Speaking at the Kathmandu summit, the Prince said: "Here in Nepal, nearly half of all women who are today in their 20s, 30s and 40s were married before their 18th birthdays. And a little under half gave birth while still in their teens.

"It may be obvious to say it, but girls who marry young stay at home. They don't finish school. And they soon become locked in a cycle of illiteracy, poverty, ill health and, ultimately, powerlessness.

"How can this cycle be broken? We all know what the answer is - education."

He added: "When girls finish their schooling, they gain skills, knowledge and confidence - in short; they are empowered to improve their lives and the lives of everyone around them."

Nepal has the third highest prevalence of child marriage in south Asia after Bangladesh, which holds the top spot, and then India.

Harry acknowledged the problem was a global one, telling his audience that more than 700 million women were married as children and nearly 250 million of them were married before the age of 15.

He added: "I recognise that each country must find its own path, and that here in Nepal this is a complex social challenge.

"But it is one that the government is tackling and is making progress in its hope of ending child marriage by 2030. It has fallen by 10% over the last decade and the practice is now banned by law; therefore the focus can now turn toward enforcement and education."

Push to End Child Marriage in Nepal