Sixteen-year-old Ismita Kumari Chaudhary of Nepal spoke on the risks of early marriages for girls in a forum held in Tokyo on Oct 11, the UN-designated International Day of the Girl Child.
"Getting pregnant and giving birth before she's physically mature endanger a girl's life. Quitting school [for marriage] will make it difficult for her to become economically independent in the future," she said.
Chaudhary lives with her mother and younger brother in a farming village in eastern Nepal. She grew up seeing girls under 15 forced to get married because of poverty and local customs.
Two years ago, she joined a club to learn about children's rights established by a local nongovernmental organisation.
"I learned that too-early marriages are not good for girls' lives," Chaudhary said. Today she is a leader of the club and is engaged in such activities as planning study meetings and educational theatre performances on the issue.
"One 15-year-old girl's marriage was cancelled. In ways like that, my community is changing little by little," she said. But three of her classmates recently left school to get married.
Chaudhary came to Japan at the invitation of Plan Japan, a public-interest incorporated foundation. She asked for Japanese people's assistance, saying, "I hope Japan will rise up as one [against the early marriage of girls]."
Regarding the recent awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Malala Yousafzai, who is in the same generation as Chaudhary, she said: "I'm proud of her. I want to do my best like she does."
Chaudhary loves mathematics and children. Her dream is to become a teacher so she can study and play with them, and teach them that children have rights of their own.