Prince Harry tells Nepal Girl Summit: education is key to ending early marriage

Celebrities, Girls' education

Prince Harry with President Bandhari at the Nepal Girl Summit

Prince Harry has made an impassioned plea for every girl to be educated and for the practice of child and early marriage to be ended.

The British royal spoke today at the Nepal Girl Summit in Kathmandu, where he said school was the key to empowering girls and young women to improve their lives and the communities where they live.

Harry 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.”

The prince visits Kanti Children's Hospital after being at the summit

Harry, 31, opened the Nepal Girl Summit alongside the country's President Bidhya Devi Bandhari, who has campaigned for women's rights.

The prince was on the final day of his five-day visit. He has visited areas devastated by last year's earthquakes, which left almost 9000 people dead, 22,000 injured and nearly one million homes destroyed.

More than 50,000 classrooms were destroyed or damaged and one million children were left out of school in the immediate aftermath.

Harry told the audience that around the world 62 million girls are not getting an education. He said two-thirds of the almost 800 million people who were never taught to read and write are women.

On child marriage, he pointed out that more than 700 million women alive today were married as children – nearly 250 million of them before the age of 15.

Harry has proved to be hugely popular during his trip to Nepal

In Nepal, more than half of women aged 25 to 49 were married before 18 and one in four had given birth by 18.

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.”

Harry paid tribute to the work being done by education campaigners and added: “Change needs to come from the bottom up. 

“We won't unlock these opportunities for young women and girls unless we can change the mindset of every family and community. To achieve this, it cannot just be women who speak up for girls.”

The prince later travelled to the Samo Thimi Technical School in Bhaktapur, where many of the students are young women.

Learn more about the vicious cycle of child marriage and exclusion from education.

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