The United Nations celebrates 11 October as International Day of the Girl Child and to mark the efforts being made to improve the situation of young girls in Malawi, Emma Watson visited the African country and met with UN workers and locals.

Watson, who is a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, commended the national government and local chiefs for taking strong measures to ban child marriages in the country while encouraging young girls to continue with their education instead.

"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 realize just how important it is for women to be able to make their own choices," the Beauty And The Beast actress said. "It's so encouraging to see how such a harmful practice can be stopped when communities work together to pass laws, and then turn those laws into reality."

In 2015, Malawi, which has one of the highest rates of child marriages in the world, passed the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act, raising the minimum age of marriage to 18. Since then, UN Women has worked with partners and tribal chiefs to ensure that the law is implemented at a local level.

President of Malawi professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, who is an Impact Champion of the HeForShe Campaign, also appointed a special task force to oversee the implementation of the law within the next five years.

Emma Watson
Watson and Senior Chief Inkosi Kachindamoto (centre) are welcomed by the girls at Mtakataka Secondary School in Malawi UN Women/Karin Schermbrucker

In Dedza, a district in central Malawi, Watson also met with senior chief Inkosi Kachindamoto who has been working actively to end child marriages in the region. "With the help and collaboration of her local chiefs, mothers' group and religious leaders, she has managed to annul almost 1,500 child marriages, sending the girls back to school," the Harry Potter actress praised Kachindamoto. "Because of bold and brave leadership like this, things may start to change. It was amazing to be on the ground with UN Women to witness their work."