Álida, Rosy and Mayra are young campaigners from Guatemala who took part in the successful campaign to increase the minimum age of marriage to 18 in their country. As a result, a new law was approved by the National Congress of Guatemala which raised the minimum age of marriage from 14 for girls and 16 for boys.
"When I heard that they had approved the new law, I felt so much happiness because I had helped make it happen,” says Mayra. “I collected signatures and was part of a team that had brought about change. I felt so proud.”
Child marriage leads to teenage pregnancy
A quarter of births in Guatemala are to teenage mothers – one of the highest rates in Latin America. It is hoped that by raising the minimum age of marriage to 18, rates of teenage pregnancy will fall along with the subsequent number of girls who drop out of school after falling pregnant.
When I heard that they had approved the new law, I felt so much happiness
"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 played together at school."
Child marriage, often to much older men, deprives girls of an education and opportunities, putting them at greater risk of abuse and teenage pregnancy. Despite this, there is still work to do in communities to enforce the new law and convince families that child marriage is detrimental to girls’ lives.
Campaigning in communities
"I think that young people are very happy about the news of the increase in the minimum age of marriage, but it is the adults that find it difficult to accept,” says Rosy. “They say that we are too young and we know nothing."
The girls have been taking part in workshops run by Plan International to learn about their rights and improve their self-esteem and leadership skills. As a result, they have developed confidence, learnt how to express themselves and teach other children about their rights.
The girls are now promoting the new law in their communities with the aim of finally putting an end to child marriage.
Álida says: "I have the support and love of my parents, which helps me a lot. Now I plan to go to college to study social work so I can help my community further.”