Aracely was 11 when she married her husband, who was 34. Now 15, she is raising her son on her own. When Concha Mercedes López Raxtún got married at 17, she moved into her in-laws home, got pregnant and stopped going to school — and 36 years later, this is still the typical life of 30 percent of teenage women in Guatemala.
Today, Raxtún, a pastor in her town now, along with NGOs like Refugio de la Niñez and Too Young to Wed, are trying to raise awareness in Guatemala to help teenagers and their families make different decisions.
“We started to ask: What are the situations that affect girls culturally and socially, in regards to patriarchy and machismo?” said program director Sandra López. “What are the situations that make them vulnerable?” Their answer was teen marriage and everything that comes with it.
Saidi (pictured above) was 15 when she married off. She is now 16 and nine months pregnant. She told Stephanie Sinclair, for a photo essay in The New York Times, that her husband left for work four months ago…she has yet to hear from him.
70,000 teens under the age of 19 gave birth in Guatemala in the first eight months of 2015. That’s the highest rate compared to all of Latin America.
In an effort to help change the status quo, Guatemalan Congress changed the legal marriage age to 18 — before girls could legally marry at 14, although many are pushed to marriage as young as 12 years old — in hopes that young women will have better more options, including an education, in their futures.
See Stephanie Sinclair’s photo essay for ‘The New York Times’ here.
Read more about young brides in Guatemala here.