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Prince Harry delivers feminist speech, extends Nepal stay

By Marilyn Malara   |   March 24, 2016 at 8:11 AM
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KATHMANDU, Nepal, March 24 (UPI) -- Prince Harry will spend six extra days in Nepal following his official tour of the country.

The royal bachelor, 31, will spend the extra time helping rebuild a school damaged by last year's earthquake, which left much of the country in shambles.

"The people I have met and the beauty of this country make it very hard to leave. Thankfully however, I'm not leaving just yet," he said, according to Kensington Palace. "I'm so grateful to have this opportunity at the end of my official tour to do my small bit to help."

The palace announced the extension in a tweet, saying the prince will camp with a group of volunteers in a remote village in the country.

Prince Harry voiced his decision to stay after delivering a powerful speech at the opening of the Nepal Girl Summit in solidarity with women and girls in the country. He explained his history working to help give thousands of children access to education and healthcare and pointed out that "there are way too many obstacles between girls and the opportunities they deserve."

"Globally, 62 million girls are not getting the education they deserve. Two thirds of the nearly 800 million people who were never taught to read and write are women," he said. "Around the world, more than 700 million women alive today were married as children and nearly 250 million of them were married before the age of 15."

"Here in Nepal, nearly half of all women who are today in their 20s, 30s and 40s were married before their 18th birthdays. And a little under half gave birth while still in their teens," he continued. "It may be obvious to say it, but girls who marry young stay at home. They don't finish school. And they soon become locked in a cycle of illiteracy, poverty, ill health and, ultimately, powerlessness."

The British royal explained the answer to the damaging cycle is widespread education, saying it can "transform lives, families, communities and ultimately entire countries."

"I recognize that each country must find its own path; and that here in Nepal, this is a complex social challenge. But it is one that the Government is tackling and is making progress in its hope of ending child marriage by 2030; it has fallen by 10 percent over the last decade and the practice is now banned by law. Therefore the focus can now turn toward enforcement and education."

Prince Harry follows in the footsteps of his parents, Princess Diana and Prince Charles, who both visited the nation in the past. He said the trip was a "personal" one, especially since Nepal is home to Gurkha soldiers, alongside whom he served in Afghanistan while in the British Army.

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