Emma Watson, the actress who stars as Hermione Granger in all eight instalments of the Harry Potter series, has backed the global push to end child marriages, saying the girls are safer in school.
The goodwill ambassador for United Nations (UN) Women, 26, was in the country last week to highlight the benefits of ensuring every girl gets education and the ills of outlawed marriages involving girls aged below 18.
On the eve of the International Day of the Girl Child, the youthful British film star, model and activist made a bumpy-road trip to the remote eastern side of Dedza where she met Senior Chief Kachindamoto who has saved nearly 1 500 girls from child marriages.
Quite inspirational was her stop at Mtakataka Secondary School where she heard appalling experiences of some of the girls who are back in school having been rescued from the annulled marriages.
Garbed in a white blouse and a black skirt, the actress said: “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 realise just how important it is for women to be able to make their own choices.”
She commended Kachindamoto for restoring the futures of girls and her endless struggle to break a culture of silence and create a safer environment where adolescents are not perceived as brides.
Globally, one-third of girls in developing countries, excluding China, are married before their 18th birthday—a legal marriageable age prescribed by the Marriage Act Parliament passed last year.
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says almost half of Malawian girls marry before their 18th birthday.
“Progress is not possible without investing in women and girls. They are our future and constitute half of any society’s promise and resources,” said UN Women country representative Clara Anyangwe.
Kachindamoto took the celebrity’s entourage down the memory lane, recounting how an encounter with 14-year-old girls with a baby or two jolted her into action.
Besides annulling marriages, she is at the centre of mother groups which speak with girls about their rights and future, persuading their parents to give them a chance to learn.
“We count ourselves lucky to have such a progressive chief and hope more and more chiefs are learning from our example,” said Dedza East parliamentarian Juliana Lunguzi. n