This week, the United Kingdom’s Prince Harry attended the Nepal Girls Summit in Kathmandu, Nepal and delivered a speech in which he advocated for a global push to advance feminism.
He acknowledged that he has not been a vocal advocate of feminism previously, but his speech in Nepal provided a unique opportunity to spotlight the issue. In 2015, the Nepalese people elected their first female president, Bidhya Devi Bhandari, who has put the advancement of women’s rights, education, and healthcare at the forefront of her administration’s agenda.
Prince Harry applauded the efforts of Nepalese President. “Madam President, you have championed the opportunities for women and girls in Nepal for many years … I believe it is vitally important for men like me to acknowledge this loudly and openly as role models do like President Bandar, the U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, and activists like Malala Yousafzai. We won’t unlock these opportunities for young women and girls unless we can change the mind-set of every family and community. To achieve this, it cannot just be women who speak up.”
In his speech, Prince Harry called for policies to break the cycle of illiteracy, ill health, and poverty. He wants governments to encourage birth control policies to delay motherhood so that women have the opportunities to stay in school longer, and he highlighted the fact that 62 million girls do not get the education they deserve and that nearly two-thirds of the 800 million people unable to read or write are women.
The gathering in front of which Prince Harry spoke convened the summit to focus attention and resources on the eradication of child marriage by 2030. Research has shown that child marriages tend to force young women to abandon their aspirations for education and careers, and they will often jeopardize young girls’ health by submitting them to child-bearing before they are bodily ready. According to Magdalena Mis of Reuters, 41% of Nepalese girls are married before they are 18, one of the highest rates in the world.
Prince Harry cited the workings of his charity, Sentebale, which has helped expand education and healthcare across southern Africa, as the source that opened his eyes to the plight of women worldwide. “We need to acknowledge that so many countries and cultures are failing to protect the opportunities for young women and girls in the way they do for boys.”
According to the Daily Mail, Prince Harry decided to extend his tour of Nepal by spending six days working with a charity called Rubicon in a remote Nepalese village. The charity is currently working to rebuild some of the infrastructure, including schools, damaged and lost after an earthquake struck Nepal last April and killed almost 9,000 people. Prince Harry also toured some of the disaster areas, relief centers, and met survivors of the quake.
The otherwise uplifting event took place under the shadow cast by the terrorist attack in Brussels, for which the British ambassador called for a moment of silence to commemorate the victims.