Guatemala is one of the smallest countries in Central America, though with a population of 14 million people, it is also the most populous. With an annual growth rate of 2.5 percent (the highest in all of Latin America), it looks they are to remain so. More than half of the population is 19 years or younger, making it the youngest country in Latin America. Guatemala has the third highest adolescent birth rate in Central America – 114 births for every 1,000 women aged 15 – 19 each year.
Although Guatemala does have several national policies that support social development and address population issues, they have not been carried out very effectively. The country has experienced economic growth in the past decade, although growth has recently slowed. Guatemala remains challenged by high levels of inequality, especially between the Mayan population, which represents approximately 40 percent of the country’s population, and the ladino population, which makes up the majority of the remaining 60 percent.
Guatemala has started making strides in addressing many of its gender-based disparities. However, the more-telling difference is between the quality of the lives of Mayan and ladina women, reflected in differences in school attendance and use of health services. Only two-fifths of women aged 20 – 24 have completed primary school, one in four in rural areas and one in ten among indigenous women.
Half of young Guatemalan women enter into a union (formal or consensual) before their 20th birthday; three-quarters do so with no schooling, compared with one-quarter of those with a primary education or more. Forty-four percent of 20–24-year-olds had their first child by age 20; the proportion is highest among young women with no education (68%) and among indigenous women (54%).