In a heartwarming and candid speech before the United Nations on Sept. 20, actress Emma Watson of "Harry Potter" fame addressed gender inequality, calling on men to take an active role in the issue and dismissing those who are critical of feminism. 

"I was appointed as Goodwill Ambassador for U.N. Women six months ago, and the more I've spoken about feminism, the more I have realized that fighting for women's rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating," she said. "If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop."

The 24-year-old went on to detail her own development as a feminist, praising both her family and her school mentors for never treating her differently or expecting less from her because of her gender, according to the Independent.

"These rights, I consider to be human rights but I am one of the lucky ones — my life is a sheer privilege because my parents didn't love me less because I was born a daughter," she said. "My school did not limit me because I was a girl. My mentors didn't assume that I would go less far because I might give birth to a child one day. These influencers are the gender equality ambassadors that made me who I am today."

Watson's speech was warmly received by those in attendance, including fellow actors Kiefer Sutherland and Oscar winner Forest Whitaker. To men in particular, she encouraged more dialog on gender inequality, adding that they too suffer from harmful stereotypes. 

"Gender equality is your issue too. Because to date, I've seen my father's role as a parent being valued less by society despite my needing his presence, as a child, as much as my mother's," she said. "I've seen young men suffering from mental illness, unable to ask for help, for fear it would make them less 'macho'—or less of a man. In fact, in the U.K., suicide is the biggest killer of men, between 20 to 49, eclipsing road accidents, cancer and coronary heart disease. I've seen men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success. Men don't have the benefits of equality, either."

Watson ended her speech by announcing the launch of the HeForShe campaign, which seeks to correct the one-sided nature of the gender equality movement and foster solidarity. 

"We are struggling for a uniting word but the good news is that we have a uniting movement," she said. "It is called HeForShe. I am inviting you to step forward to be seen and to ask yourself, 'If not me, who? If not now, when?'"

View Watson's full speech below:

Related on MNN: