The Latin American and Caribbean Initiative to Prevent and Address the Early Unions in Girls and Young Women

The Latin American and Caribbean Initiative to Prevent and Address the Early Unions in Girls and Young Women

From the CAMY Fund we promote the Latin American and Caribbean Initiative to Prevent and Address the Early Unions in Girls and Young Women with the objective of identifying the characteristics of early unions in Latin America and the Caribbean, keeping in mind the region has cultural, social and political contexts that make the practice of child marriage manifest in particular ways.

We want to contribute new perspectives and challenge the approaches that, while trying to eradicate early unions, deny youth autonomy and limit the expression and exploration of sexuality in adolescence.  Girls and young women should be at the center of the discussion when addressing the situations that affect them. We do not want to promote prohibitionist discourses that take away their rights, particularly when they come from impoverished, rural or indigenous communities.

         – EARLY UNIONS: We move away from the concept of «child marriage», firstly because marriage is a legal figure that refers to a formal civil union with a series of civil responsibilities. In Latin America and the Caribbean most of the unions are informal, that is, cohabitation without any civil ceremony. This informality in unions makes data collection more difficult; and therefore, to use the metric of “child marriage” is to minimize the real prevalence of early unions, formal and otherwise, in the region.

Secondly, when the term «child marriage» is used, the entire population under the age of 18 is included, but childhood is not the same as adolescence. In this region, the majority of unions occur among adolescents and young people between the ages of 15 and 17 years old. By differentiating early unions based on life stages, we are able to address the different needs of young women who enter into consensual unions, versus forced unions, that take place for girls under 16 without their consent.

          – PREVENT AND SUPPORT: We want to make visible not only the strategies for prevention but also the urgent need for the state to respond to the early unions that already exist. The high prevalence of unions between adolescents require effective public policies regarding access to health, employment, education, justice … etc.

To diminish the regional tendency for early unions, we propose to go beyond strategies that seek legal reform and instead give priority to well-rounded solutions that take into account cultural, social and political contexts in the region.


It is the responsibility of the whole society to ensure that adolescents, girls and young women can make decisions regarding their own lives and their connections, without feeling pressured or forced into a marriage. For that reason, provides information about what is happening in the region in relation to early unions and makes available to you a library, a legislative mapping, infographics, multimedia tools, news and more.


Through the Latin American and Caribbean Initiative to Prevent and Address the Early Unions in Girls and Young Women, we support local organizations and youth groups with financing and leadership skill strengthening for young women and girls in Mexico and Central America that work to prevent and address early unions in the region.

Grants are awarded through an annual public call for applications and/or direct invitations to apply. How to respond to public call for applications?

Counterparts of the 2017-2018 cycle:


  • Project: «Empowered, I manage my rights for myself, to live free of violence»
    Celia Vega, 28, will lead this project by the Foundation for Community Development (FUNDECOM). The project involves 60 mothers and adolescent girls from outlying areas of the country in the process of recovery and emotional healing to contribute to their family welfare. It will also provide spaces for financial education and help in the identification of economic opportunities for program participants and support the implementation of an advocacy and communications campaign.See more
  • Project: «In action for girls and adolescents»
    Martha Amador, 28, will lead this project from the Women and Community Economic Development Foundation (FUMDEC). The project will carry out training in prevention of early unions for 100 girls and young women, their parents and municipal leaders. The project includes the design and execution of a communication campaign focused on the prevention of early unions and is aimed at the inhabitants of the rural municipality of El Cúa. See more


  • Project: «Empowering Mayan girls and community actors to prevent early unions»
    Sandra Cocón, 31, and Delfina Raquec, 30, will lead the Women’s Justice Initiative project. The main component of the project is training on the rights of girls and the prevention of early unions. 300 adolescents, their parents, teachers, health service providers and municipal leaders will be beneficiaries. Information materials and educational resources will also be developed as part of the project. In addition, participants will receive workshops that will help them identify opportunities for their professional development and a municipal forum for the prevention of early unions will be developed. See more


  • Project: «Prevention of forced marriage and early unions with indigenous adolescents in Chiapas»
    Blanca González Pérez, 29, will lead the project from the organization Information and Educational Designs for Healthy Actions A.C. (IDEAS). The main activities of the project will be training in the prevention of early unions based on the rights of girls and adolescents. Cultural projects will also be developed for the prevention of early unions in three communities of Chiapas, advocacy activities with municipal authorities and a municipal forum. See more

The situation of early unions in Latin America and the Caribbean has little official data. There is not much research on risk factors or the context of each country with respect to early unions. Most of the data, research and analysis are global and regional.

The United Nations System, international organizations, foundations, etc. have made great strides to make visible the situations of early unions in Latin America, but there is a need to delve into local particularities and analyze the role of girls and young women. Review reports and studies on the subject in our library.

We can identify two main limitations for acquiring information about early unions in adolescents and girls. On the one hand, the way to access or document informal unions that do not pass through the civil registry are limited. On the other hand, the latest legislative reforms in the region, which prohibit marriage without exception in children under 18, cause diminished registration and marginalize reliable data on the unions themselves. Check our Legislative Mapping

For this reason, the Latin American and Caribbean Initiative to Prevent and Address the Early Unions in Girls and Young Women has a key research component. We want to document the realities and experiences of youth leaders and social organizations. In 2017, we launched a call for researchers who would like to contribute perspectives located in communities where local organizations are transforming the lives of adolescents. See more in SUPPORT.

In this first stage, the research will focus on Nicaragua and Mexico with the FUMDEC organizations; FUNDECOM, IDEAS.


  • Elvira Cuadra: Researcher at the Communication Research Center (CINCO), associate researcher at the Center for International Studies (CEI), and member of the Advisory Council of the Center for Political Studies, all located in Nicaragua. She has been a university professor at the University of Central American in Nicaragua (UCA), and the Redemptoris Mater Catholic University (UNICA). Over the course of ten years of research she has specialized in issues of democracy, governance, conflicts and security. Among her publications are: Social Order and Governance in Nicaragua. 1990-1996 (1998), Youth and political culture. The generation of the 90 «(2001), Decentralization in Nicaragua. Diagnosis of the process (2003), Social change and conflict. Actors and power relations (2003) and The trinomial of fire. Weapons, laws and culture (2004).
  • Diana Reartes: Buenos Aires / Mexico Social anthropologist, graduated from the Humanities and Arts Department of the National University of Rosario. She has lived in Mexico since 1995. She is a teacher and doctor in social anthropology at CIESAS, Mexico City, with a specialization in medical anthropology. With a post-doctorate in the Center for Demographic, Urban and Environmental Studies (CEDUA) of El Colegio de México. Since 2013, she has been a professor-researcher at the Institute of Thought and Culture in Latin America (IPECAL). Her areas of interest are indigenous youth, sexual and reproductive health, gender and migration. She is a member of the National System of Researchers in level I and the State System of Researchers of Chiapas in level II. She is the author of «Sexual and reproductive trajectories of young indigenous migrants from Chiapas, Mexico» published in (En)clave Comahue, Patagonian Social Studies Magazine (2016) and the book «Migratory processes, indigenous youth and implications on sexuality and reproduction. Los Altos de Chiapas» (2014).

YOUNG RESEARCHERS:  Girls and young women are the main actors in the prevention of or attention to early unions, so we believe that their voices should be heard and recognized as valid for the proposal of solutions or inclusive analysis. Throughout 2018 we will launch a call to support young researchers who want to deepen the study and research in their communities of origin on the situation of early unions.

Many actors have already raised their voices to prevent early-unions and / or child marriage at the global, regional and national levels.

If you are already doing work on this topic in the community or local level you may be interested in connecting with the following groups on varying levels of coordination:

Global Coordination:

  • Girls Not Brides. It is a global association of more than 800 civil society organizations from 95 countries committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls to realize their full potential. The members are based in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and America. You can find resources in English or be a member of the association.

Regional Coordination:

  • Youth: We seek to coordinate with youth actors, networks, community organizations, donors and local governments to jointly analyze the progress and challenges of youth participation in the prevention and care of early unions at the regional or national level.
  • The United Nations System leads several regional and national initiatives to eradicate child marriage from:
    • UNFPA United Nations Population Fund,
    • UNICEF United Nations Children’s Fund,
    • UN Women: Organization of the United Nations dedicated to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women.

To prevent and address the early unions of girls and young women, adequate public policies, legislative reforms and international recommendations that go beyond prohibitionist reforms are needed. We want an integral proposal to reduce and address early unions based on:

  • Philanthropic impact: Raise awareness for foundations and donors on the importance of financing young women to prevent and tend to early unions.
  • Regional impact: We seek to support regional and international youth participation in the prevention and care of early unions at the regional or national level.