Kathmandu, March 23
Prince Harry today stressed the need for educating girls, saying education empowers them to improve their lives and the lives of everyone around them.
Addressing the Nepal Girl Summit-2016 held today in Kathmandu, Prince Harry who is on a five-day official visit to Nepal to commemorate 200 years of Nepal- UK relations said improved access to education can transform lives, families, communities and ultimately entire countries.
He stated that many young girls aged around 14 years were being forced out of school so she could get married. “We need to acknowledge that so many countries and cultures are failing to protect the opportunities of young women and girls in the way they do for boys,” he said, adding there were too many obstacles between girls and the opportunities they deserve.
“After marriage at young age, girls soon become locked in a cycle of illiteracy, poverty, ill health and ultimately powerlessness,” he said, adding, “Only education can break this cycle. 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.”
He informed that his charity Sentebale has helped thousands of children access education and healthcare in Lesotho, Southern Africa and in Nottingham, England where he had seen firsthand the transformational effect of even the smallest opportunity in keeping a child away from gangs, keeping them in school and on track to a more fulfilling and prosperous life.
He also said that not only role models like President Bidhya Bhandari, the US First Lady Michelle Obama and activist Malala, men like him also need to speak openly and loudly about challenges young women face and the need to unlock the opportunities for young women and girls through the change in mindset of every family and community.
He mentioned that globally, 62 million girls were deprived of education and two-thirds of the nearly 800 million people who were never taught to read and write were women.
Similarly, around the world, more than 700 million women alive today were married as children and nearly 250 million of them were married before the age of 15.
While talking about Nepal in particular, nearly half of all women who are today in their twenties, thirties and forties were married before their eighteenth birthdays and a little under half gave birth while still in their teens, he said.
Prince Harry also admired women occupying the roles of President and Speaker as a powerful example of female leadership in Nepal. The Nepal Girl Summit-2016 saw participation of 59 girls and boys from 15 districts with high prevalence of child marriage.
Radhika Buda, one of the participants from Kalikot district, demanded quality education to live a dignified life.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Women, Children and Social Welfare, CP Mainali expressed the government’s commitment to ending child marriage by 2030 as envisaged in Goal 5.3 of Sustainable Development Goals.
A version of this article appears in print on March 24, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.