Global figures united on 26th June in a call to help end child marriage across the Commonwealth.

They were speaking at a central London event co-hosted by the Royal Commonwealth Society and global children's charity Plan UK.

Child Marriage Canada House

The two organisations have been working closely in partnership since 2010 on the issues of girls' education and child marriage in the Commonwealth.

H.E. Gordon Campbell, High Commissioner for Canada in the UK, told the audience: "Few issues are as central to the human rights of young girls as early and forced marriage.

"Our collective voices and actions can create a start to put this practice behind us. It's time for the Commonwealth to take up this issue and demonstrate leadership."

Princess Mabel van Oranje-Nassau of the Netherlands emphasised the need to create and enact legislation on child marriage, as well as the importance of empowering girls through education.

She urged leaders to incorporate early and forced marriage issues into existing development goals and community based projects.

Deputy Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba said it was time to "break the silence" on early and forced marriage, as a "key challenge to development."

And the audience heard from 12-year-old Malawian girl, Alinane, who told them: "Governments should help enforce laws and girls should be protected.

"I urge the Commonwealth, UN, civil society to work hand-in-hand to make sure the next generation has a better future with more education."

The Royal Commonwealth Society and Plan UK have worked on a joint campaign to secure Commonwealth commitments to ending early and forced marriage.

Their partnership was successful in moving the issue forward at the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) with steps to mitigate child marriage in the Commonwealth included in the final communiqué.

Mike Lake, Director of The Royal Commonwealth Society, said of today's event: "It is important that civil society works with governments and other players on this issue and together we can see movement towards ending early forced marriage in the Commonwealth."

Plan UK's Director of Programmes, Nazma Kabir, said: "The Commonwealth community can be the agents of change for children around the world - for them to have a brighter future. The time is now ripe for the Commonwealth to lead the fight to end child marriage."