Success! How empowered girls are ending child marriage in Guatemala

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4 girls smiling

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 initiative, 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

Mayra smiles for camera

Mayra

After 3 years of campaigning, Plan International was thrilled to announce that girls in Guatemala finally had 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.

Saying “I do” to a brighter future for girls

In 2018, Álida and Mayra received the 2018 #HearMyVoice award for their work to prevent child marriage.

The award included a prize fund of 5,000 Euro which the girls decided to use to fund a new project to raise awareness and prevent child marriage in rural regions.

“This award is important to us because we will be able to reach out to the most remote communities with information about girls’ rights, and explain that a law has now been passed making it illegal for children under the age of 18 to get married,” explains Álida.

Álida remains 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.


You can help end child marriage too!

This story is a testament to the importance of empowering youth. When children are  empowered to demand for better and take ownership of their own futures, they can rally their entire community to stand up for their rights and challenge the status quo.

Change IS possible if we work together to end what is considered ‘normal’ for millions around the world. That’s why Plan International Canada is calling on Canadians like you to stand with girls like Álida and Mayra to Defy Normal and help end child marriage.

Together, we can support girls in becoming empowered, confident women who decide their own futures.

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