Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 12 July 2020

'Female rights are human rights': Priyanka Chopra champions education in Ethiopia

The actress is in the African nation this week with Unicef, meeting hundreds of young schoolchildren

It was straight from the Cannes red carpet to the classroom for Priyanka Chopra this week, who has jetted into Ethiopia after her appearance at the film festival.

The Quantico actress is in the eastern African country with Unicef, for which she is a Goodwill Ambassador.

The 36-year-old, who appears to have travelled without her husband, Nick Jonas, has been updating her 40 million Instagram followers on her visit, sharing a series of snapshots from her meetings with local pupils.

Chopra made the trip to Ethiopia to shine a spotlight on Unicef's work to protect refugee children and their right to quality education, the non-profit organisation revealed.

The actress first visited a primary school in the capital of Addis Ababa, where enrollment of pupils has tripled since 2000. However, Chopra highlighted that more still needs to be done, revealing 50 per cent of children attending school drop out by grade eight.

"Because of poverty, children are responsible for much more than just learning, like caring for siblings, walking miles to collect water and other household chores ... things that should not be a child’s responsibility at any age," the star wrote alongside a video from her visit. "A child is a child."

Chopra also met with members of the Gender Club, a Unicef-supported programme that educates schoolchildren on harmful social practices, such as gender-based violence, child marriage, and sexual violence.

She also met with Ethiopia's president Sahle-Work Zewde.

"Her fierce commitment to the empowerment and advancement of women is unprecedented," the Baywatch star said of the country's first female leader. "She’s pushing for policies that provide people with access to education and other essential needs so they can improve their familial economic situation and hence the economy of Ethiopia. I’m so inspired."

The actress also visited another primary school for refugee children, which is experiencing a shortage of trained teachers. Currently, there are 89 pupils to every teachers, resulting in overcrowded classrooms. Chopra met a grade eight pupil who teaches grades one to four, as well as 15-year-old Hasina, who escaped an arranged child marriage to continue her education.

"She asked herself, if she married now, would she ever go back to school again? Hasina loves learning and wasn’t willing to trade her education or freedom for anything," wrote Chopra, alongside an image of the pair. "It’s important to understand that it takes an immense amount of courage to go against these cultural 'norms' that have existed for centuries."

The actress commended the local community's efforts to support Hasina, and also take a stand against child marriage and female mutilation.

"Education gave these girls that perspective. This community is an example of how change is possible," Chopra added. "Female rights are human rights."

The actress has urged her fans to follow her social media accounts to watch more as her visit unfolds.

Unicef says Ethiopia has 906,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers mainly from neighbouring South Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia.

Updated: May 22, 2019 03:26 PM

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