The rights of girls and women in Nepal have been placed at the centre of a major summit held in the country’s capital Kathmandu. Officially opened by His Royal Highness Prince Harry, the Nepal Girl Summit builds on the Government of Nepal’s commitment to end child marriage by 2030.
This follows on from the first Girl Summit co-hosted by the UK and UNICEF in London in July 2014, which was a rallying cry in the fight against child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM). Since then the international community has agreed a target on ending these harmful practices through the Global Goals, while 11 countries have begun National Action Plans on the issues. Follow up Girl Summits have already been held in Bangladesh, Uganda, Ethiopia as well as a regional African Union-led Girl Summit in Zambia.
In Nepal it is estimated that over 1.3 million adolescent girls are at risk of being married as children. Of women aged 15-19 years almost a quarter are already married, while nearly half of those aged 20-49 were married before their 18th birthday.
Child marriage is a serious violation of a girl’s human rights, denying her voice, choice and control, robbing her of the right to choose her own future and putting her at greater risk of dropping out of school and dying through early childbirth.
Speaking at the opening of the Nepal Girl Summit His Royal Highness Prince Harry said:
While the unique challenges faced by girls is not a topic I have spoken much about in the past, I think it’s important to acknowledge something that has become obvious to me and is already known to everyone in this room: there are way too many obstacles between girls and the opportunities they deserve.
Whether it’s a girl in Lesotho living with HIV; or the talented young woman in Britain who doesn’t get taken seriously because of where she grew up; or the 14 year old girl forced out of school so she can get married here in Nepal; 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.
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.
International Development Minister Justine Greening said:
I am proud that the UK has been able to help shine a light on difficult issues like child marriage and that His Royal Highness, Prince Harry, was able to lend his support to the Nepal Girl Summit.
Almost two years after our first London Girl Summit, this is another important step towards ending child marriage, which ruins lives and stops girls having control over their own future.
The Nepal Girl Summit was co-hosted by UNICEF and the Government of Nepal’s Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare (MoWCSW). Ending child marriage is high on the Government of Nepal’s agenda with no fewer than 11 ministries involved in the National Child Marriage Strategy. As well as reconfirming the Government of Nepal’s commitment to end child marriage, the summit engaged young people about how to change social norms around child marriage and dowry related practices.
The UK government has put women and girls at the centre of its work overseas, tackling discrimination and creating real opportunities so girls and women can participate in all aspects life. Harmful practices such as child marriage lay bare the most extreme examples gender inequality, which for a long time have not been addressed by the international community.
That is why the UK has a £36 million programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage. Nepal is one of twelve priority countries for this important work, which also include Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Ethiopia, Yemen, Uganda, Mozambique, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Niger, Burkina Faso and Ghana.
We are helping to strengthen the law in countries where child marriage is prevalent as well as scaling up access to education, sexual and reproductive health and child protection services for girls at risk of child marriage. This programme has the potential to reach 2.5 million girls at risk of child marriage and tackle many of the harmful social norms that underlie it.