12 October 2016 Last updated at: 3:48 PM

Emma Watson: Harry Porter Star says child marriages affecting girls in Malawi

United Nations Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson has said that high rate of child marriages in the country are burdening girls from continuing with their education.

Watson who is also an actress made the remarks on the eve of International Day of the Girl Child in the area of Senior Chief Kachindamoto in Dedza district when she visited the country to celebrate the achievements of United Nations Women, Malawi government, local chiefs and girls who have returned to school after having their marriages annulled.

Emma Watson

Emma Watson with Chief Kachindamoto in Malawi.

According to United Nations Women, Malawi has one the highest rates of child marriages in the world since half of the girls get married before the age of 18, usually because their families are too poor to continue supporting them.

Commenting on this, Watson said that many young girls in the country are struggling with poverty and forced into early marriages, depriving them from the education process.

“Meeting with young girls, who like many in their country, are struggling with poverty and were pressured into early marriage made me realise just how important it is for a woman to be able to make their own choices, it is so encouraging to see how such harmful practices can be stopped when communities work together to pass laws and turn those laws into reality,” said Watson.

According to Miss Watson, child marriages in the country are fueling high illiterate levels among girls which is against world goal of empowering women and girls inclusive.

In 2015, Malawi passed the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act, raising the minimum age of marriage to 18. Since then, United Nation Women has worked with partners and tribal chiefs to ensure that the law is implemented at a local level.

Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika, who is an Impact Champion of the HeForShe Campaign, appointed a special task force to see that the law is fully implemented within five years.

Recently the Malawi National Assembly also implemented the HeForShe campaign where the Speaker of the National Assembly and other 27 Members of Parliament signed an initiative aimed at making critical commitments to promote Gender Equality and women’s empowerment in the country.

The United Nations marks the International Day of the girl child annually on 11th October.

This year’s theme is ‘Girls progress=Girls progress: What counts for girls,” and urges stakeholders to take the opportunity provided by the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) harness the data required to ensure programmes, policies and services effectively respond the specific needs of girls.

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