WE'RE used to seeing her starching collars and polishing boots in her role as lady's maid Anna Bates in television drama Downton Abbey.

But Whitby actress Joanne Froggatt recently travelled to Bangladesh to lend her support to a campaign which aims to end child marriage.

The 34-year-old, who played a rape victim in Downton Abbey, wanted to support children's charity Plan UK's campaign to halt child marriage - which currently affects 15 million girls globally each year.

Miss Froggatt, originally from the hamlet of Littlebeck, near Robin Hood's Bay, is now an ambassador of Plan's Because I am a Girl campaign. In Bangladesh, two in three girls are married before their 18th birthday, even though it is illegal.

“It scares me that so many girls worldwide are unable to choose who they marry and when they marry," she said.

"Every girl should have the opportunity to complete her education and make choices about her own future."

Girls are forced to drop out of school, have children before they are ready and are often subject to violent abuse.

Joanne met a group of children called Wedding Busters in the Dinajpur region of Bangladesh who campaign against child marriage.

Supported by Plan, they take action as soon as they hear news of an imminent child wedding – spreading their message on girls’ rights through courtyard education sessions, amateur theatre, and door-to-door visits.

During the three-day visit Miss Froggatt also visited a Plan-supported health centre, where nurses and midwives told her about the health problems associated with child marriage.

She said: “The girls are simply not physically mature enough to endure the rigours of childbirth.

“If they don't die in the process, many suffer disability or severe infection.”

Healthcare workers receive help from Plan to help girls through complicated births and also offer emotional support.

Because I am a Girl aims to keep girls in education and out of child marriage and has already helped 58 million girls around the world.

Tanya Barron, CEO of Plan UK, says: “Child marriage is a violation of girls’ rights and can cause severe physical and mental trauma.

“It’s a privilege to have Joanne as an advocate for our drive to ensure the world’s poorest girls are safe from child marriage and other harmful practices.”

To join the Because I am a Girl campaign or to make a donation to Plan’s work with girls, visit www.plan-uk.org/becauseiamagirl