Álida, Rosy and Mayra are 3 determined girls with 1 shared goal: to end child marriage in Guatemala, a country with some of the worst child marriage and teen pregnancy statistics in Latin America.
According to UNICEF, 30% of all girls in Guatemala are married before age 18, and a quarter of all births are to teenage mothers. These daunting statistics motivated Álida, Rosy and Mayra to take action and speak up about the issue of child brides in their communities.
“A friend of mine who was married at 13 already has several children” says Álida, “It is very difficult for me to see her in this situation because we used to play together at school.”
With the support of Plan International’s Because I am a Girl movement, the 3 girls have worked tirelessly to unite families, communities and local authorities in the fight against child marriage. These efforts culminated in a successful campaign to change the minimum age for marriage in Guatemala to 18 years old.
A huge step forward for girls’ rights
After 3 years of campaigning, Plan International is thrilled to announce that girls in Guatemala finally have legal protection from becoming child brides!
In August 2015, Guatemala’s National Congress approved a law establishing 18 as the minimum age for marriage – for both women and men.
The previous law had allowed girls to get married at 14 years old and boys at 16 and between 2009 and 2013 more than 80,000 girls under 18 got married – the majority to men triple their age.
“When I heard that they had approved the new law, I felt so much happiness because I had helped make it happen. I collected signatures and was part of a team of people who had brought about the change. I feel so proud!” says Mayra.
With the minimum age for marriage increased, girls will be better protected against sexual abuse, teen pregnancies, trafficking, and physical and emotional violence.
In addition, child marriage often deprives girls of the education they have a right to – continuing a negative cycle for the next generation. Ending child marriage will therefore also help keep more girls in school – where they belong.
SEE ALSO – A bride at 16: the reality of child marriage
Saying “I do” to a brighter future for girls
Today, Álida, Mayra and Rosy continue to speak out against child marriage, and are preparing for the challenge of promoting the new law in rural communities where traditional cultures still uphold the practice of child marriage.
“I think that young people have been very happy about the new law, but it’s the adults that find it difficult to accept,” says Rosy, adding that she is determined to create a brighter future for girls in Guatemala.
Álida is also optimistic about the future, and says she wouldn’t have been able to fight for girls’ rights without the support of her parents and Plan International.
“I plan to go to college to study social work so I can help my community,” she says.
You can help end child marriage too!
It’s every girl’s right to choose if, who and when they marry. Yet globally, 41,000 girls are forced into child marriage every day.
You can help prevent early marriage and ensure girls achieve their full potential through the Because I am a Girl project. Your support will help girls in the poorest regions of the world access their most basic rights, including protection, education, and healthcare.