UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson visited Malawi this past Monday to “shine a global spotlight on the need to end child marriage”. Malawi has one of the world’s highest rates of child marriage with half of all girls married before the age of 18. Last year Malawi passed legislation raising the minimum age of marriage to 18 and Malawi President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika has set a goal of fully implementing the new law within 5 years. Emma met with traditional chiefs and girls who have returned to school after having marriages annulled.
“Spending the day in the beautiful country of Malawi has been a moving and inspiring experience for me. 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. 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.”
“I applaud and thank our HeForShe Impact Champion President Mutharika for making this issue a priority in his Government, as well as all the traditional leaders—especially Chief Kachindamoto (so formidable, she has been nicknamed “The Terminator”!). She has implemented the annulment of so many child marriages and restored the futures of these girls. With the help and collaboration of her local chiefs, mothers’ groups and religious leaders, she has managed to annul almost 1500 child marriages, sending the girls back to school. President Mutharika has committed to make child marriage a thing of the past in Malawi within the next five years. 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!”
Emma met with Senior Chief Kachindamoto, “a prominent champion in the fight to stop child marriage. The Chief has annulled nearly 1,500 such marriages among her constituents, and suspended village heads who have consented to the practice”. Emma also met with girls who have returned to school after having their marriages annulled. For more
Last month Emma was in Ottawa, Canada for the 2016 One Young World Summit. She lead a special session on gender equality, “Challenging Stereotypes from the Ground Up”. In her opening statement, Emma spoke of the threats and abuse she’s suffered since founding the HeForShe campaign, finding her sense of belonging, her “tribe”, as an activist, and how communities can break down the gender barriers. “We, the entire spectrum of the feminist movement, are building an unstoppable current.”
Emma also met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss the HeForShe campaign and his role of HeForShe Youth Ambassador.