The practice of child marriage is widespread. According to new data from UNICEF, the total number of girls married in childhood is now estimated at 12 million a year.* History shows us that women who enter marriage when they are still children frequently suffer from physical and mental trauma, including sexual assault, domestic abuse, and denial of their fundamental rights and prospects.

According to UNICEF, to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 by 2030, progress to end child marriage needs to accelerate dramatically. If we wish to reduce gender-based violence and advance gender equality, we must actively and effectively oppose child marriage.

As a faith-based organization, we will discuss how the church can support vulnerable and marginalized groups in our communities and help bring an end to child marriage, locally and globally.


Please register in advance.
Upon registration, you will receive an email with directions for joining the online event.

Panel Discussion


Ms. Fraidy Reiss

Founder/Executive Director, Unchained At Last

Ms. Fraidy Reiss’ Bio

Fraidy Reiss is a forced marriage survivor turned activist.

She was 19 when she was forced to marry a stranger in New York City’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community — and she was subjected to a virginity examination before the wedding. She was stripped of all sexual and reproductive rights within her abusive marriage, forced to have unprotected marital sex and forced to have two children without her consent. Even though her husband was violent from the first week of their marriage, her insular religious community refused her the right to leave; in that community, only a man can grant a divorce.

Determined to escape her forced marriage, Fraidy eventually defied her husband and community to become the first person in her family to go to college. She graduated from Rutgers University at age 32 as valedictorian (called “commencement speaker” at Rutgers). With her journalism degree, she was hired as a reporter for the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey, eventually getting promoted to the paper’s elite investigative-reporting team. She went on to a career as an investigator at Kroll, then the world’s largest investigations firm. At the same time, Fraidy managed to get divorced, win full custody of her two daughters and get a final restraining order against her ex-husband. 

Her family declared her dead, but Fraidy is very much alive. She founded and now leads Unchained At Last, the only organization dedicated to ending forced and child marriage in the United States through direct services and systems change.

Through Unchained, Fraidy has helped hundreds of survivors across the U.S. to escape forced marriages, and she now leads a growing national movement to end child marriage in every U.S. state and at the federal level. Legislation she helped to write and promote has been passed into law in multiple U.S. states. 

Fraidy’s research and writing on forced and child marriage have been published extensively, including in the New York Times, Washington Post and Journal of Adolescent Health and by Oxford Press, making her one of the foremost experts on these abuses in the U.S. She has been featured in books (including as one of the titular women in Hillary and Chelsea Clinton’s The Book of Gutsy Women), films (including the award-winning documentary Knots: A Forced Marriage Story) and countless television, radio and print news stories.


Ernest Cajuste

Senior Program Officer, Trauma & Resilience, Episcopal Relief & Development

Ernest Cajuste’s Bio

Ernest Cajuste is the Senior Program Officer, Trauma & Resilience at Episcopal Relief & Development. In this role, Ernest provides technical leadership in advancing key objectives of the strategic plan, notably in the area of trauma resilience and well-being across the organization’s community development and emergency response portfolio. He offers technical advice and facilitates the transfer of skills and capacities to the program team and international partners to aid in the design of programs that address and promote trauma recovery and developmental resilience. Ernest oversees developing, integrating and replicating Strategies for Trauma Awareness & Resilience (STAR) that restore and build individual and community well-being in projects across the organization’s portfolio of early childhood development, gender and climate resilience initiatives. He works with an assigned grant-management portfolio of international partners and projects. Ernest identifies and refers new potential partners aligned with Episcopal Relief & Development’s core values to achieve the organization’s strategic plan.

Jose-Roberto Luna Manzanero

Technical Specialist, Adolescents and Youth, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

Jose-Roberto Luna Manzanero’s Bio

José-Roberto Luna leads the global work on ending child marriage and adolescent girls’ programming at UNFPA. He promotes young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) at the intersection of gender, human rights and power. He came to his current position after more than two decades of leadership in SRHR in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and the Arab States, at various levels of civil society organizations, the government, the UN System and academia. Previously, he led regional coalitions of civil society organizations promoting policy advocacy and accountability for SRHR in LAC and led UNFPA’s portfolio on comprehensive sexuality education and adolescent girls programming for rural and indigenous girls in Guatemala. A national of the Republic of Guatemala, he is trained in psychology, political sciences and social sciences. He can be reached at

Dr. Lopita Nath

Professor and Department Chair, University of the Incarnate Word

Dr. Lopita Nath’s Bio

Dr. Lopita Nath is the Chair of the History Department and the Coordinator of the Asian Studies Program at the University of the Incarnate Word. She has taught for over 31 years in the fields of Asian and World History, Migration Studies, Refugee Issues and Human Rights. Dr. Nath is a Fulbright Scholar and the recipient of the Social Science Research Council Award.  At UIW she was awarded the Edward A. Zlotkowski Faculty Award for Service Learning(2020), Minnie Piper Award UIW Nominee (2020-21, 2015), Presidential Teaching Award (2019) and the Moody Professor Award (2015), Her research expertise is on Migration in Asia, human displacement, refugees, citizenship, and human rights. Her current research focuses on the Bhutanese Refugee Resettlement in the USA.  Since 2010, she visited the Bhutanese Refugee Camps in Nepal three times to understand the Bhutanese refugee crisis, and also worked with resettled refugees in Columbus, Ohio, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, Texas. Currently, she is working on her book on the Bhutanese Refugee Resettlement in the United States. She has authored several articles in reputed journals on her research on the Bhutanese refugees, including The Nepalis in Assam: Cross Border Movements and Ethnicity (2003) and co-authored “Course Based Study Abroad: How to Create a Truly Transformative Experience”(Routledge,2019). She is the past president of the Southwest Conference on Asian Studies, Coordinator of the European, Middle-Eastern and Asian Studies at the Southwest Historical Association and serves on the Catholic Charities Refugee Advisory Board and the Faculty Advisory Board of Institute of Texan Cultures and is the Vice Chair of the Advisory Board of the Ettling Center for Civic Leadership. She was a part of the cohort of the NEH Trauma Grant (2017-2019) and the NEH Water and Culture Grant.

In addition to the above, her work with the refugees and promoting service learning among the students with the refugees exposes students to refugee communities in San Antonio from multi-cultural, faith and regional backgrounds. She works as a mediator and coordinator at these interactions, making it easier for the students to bridge those barriers and complexities that they may encounter during their interactions with the refugees. Her ‘Mentoring A Refugee Family’ project and collaborations with several community partners like the Catholic Charities, Center for Refugee Services, City of San Antonio Immigration Liaison, Raices and others, aims to provide students with these opportunities for communication and dialogue with people from different countries and cultures.

She has frequently presented at conferences, including invited presentations on her research to a wider audience. Some of those presentations are listed below:

Panelist: “Crisis of Climate Change and Displacement: Impact on Women Refugees”,On the panel on Gender-Responsive Action for Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation in the Digital Age on United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 67, Parallel Event), March 16, 2023, United Nations, New York.

 Panelist: A Refugee Forever: Bhutanese Refugees in Camps at the end of Resettlement, Himalayan Studies Conference 6, Toronto, October 13-15th 2022.

Panelist: Connecting the Local with the Global: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Global Education, Service Learning, and Digital Literacy for Refugee Women during the Pandemic. Lopita Nath, University of the Incarnate Word, Southwest Social Science Annual Meeting, San Antonio, Texas, 2022

Panelist : “A refugee at heart forever: Memory, Homeland and Identity among the Bhutanese Refugees Resettled in America,” Symposium on DISPLACED: UNHOMELINESS AND COMMUNITY DURING TIMES OF CRISIS, October 16, 2020.

Panelist: A Decade Later: Challenges and Success Stories of Bhutanese Refugee Resettlement in the United States, presented at The Annual Kathmandu Conference on Nepal and the Himalayas, Social Science Baha. Kathmandu, Nepal. July 28-31, 2020 (Virtual Conference).

Panelist: “Nepali Migration to Assam: Colonial Legacies, Post-Colonial Conflicts”, on a panel on “On the Edge of Empire: Rethinking Nepal’s ‘Non-Colonial’ Legacy”,  at the Imperial Legacies of 1919 Conference. University of North Texas, Denton, Texas. April 19th 2019.

Panelist: “Empowerment of At-Risk Women through Access to Social Protection Services: Refugee, Immigrant and Battered Women”. United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 63, Parallel Event), March 15, 2019, United Nations, New York.

“Do Refugees have Rights? Understanding the Global Refugee Crisis and Human Rights”, Panel Organizer, Chair and Discussant, (Undergraduate Student Panel), World History Of Texas Conference, Texas A&M-Commerce, Texas, February 23rd 2019.

Raising Students’ Voices: Using Literature Featuring Refugee Characters in the Classroom, Co-Author: Stephanie Grote-Garcia, presented at 2018 NCTE Annual Convention, Nov 15-17, 2018 Houston, Texas.

Democracy in Shangri-la: A unique case of Political change in Bhutan, Presented at Southwest Social Science Association Annual Conference, Orlando, Florida. Oct.11-13, 2018.

An Old Monarchy, A New Democracy and Gross National Happiness in Bhutan: A Holistic Approach for Sustainable Development. The Annual Kathmandu Conference on Nepal and the Himalayas, Social Science Baha. Kathmandu, Nepal. July 25-27, 2018.

Democratization and Gross National Happiness in Bhutan: A Holistic Approach for Sustainable Development, Presented at the Sixteenth Annual Hawaii International Conference on Arts & Humanities, Honolulu, Hawaii., January 8-12, 2018.

The New Bhutan: Gross National Happiness, the New Democracy and the Old Monarchy, Presented at the 46th Southwest Conference in Asian Studies, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas. Nov.17-18th 2017

From the United States to the Camps in Nepal: Challenges and Impact of the Bhutanese Refugee Resettlement, in a panel Nepali-Bhutanese Refugee Resettlement: A Retrospective Look at the First Decade, presented at the Himalayan Studies Conference V, to be held in Boulder, Colorado, USA from September 1-4, 2017

Refugee Resettlement in the Texas Panhandle: Towards a Positive Approach, In a Panel on Population Change in Texas, with Co-Author Sherryllynn Roberts, UTSA, at Southwest Social Science Association Annual Meeting, Austin Texas, April 13-15, 2017.

Reading Refugee Stories: Preparing K-12 Teachers to help students understand Global Issues,  in a panel “War and Its Effects”, with Co-Author Stephanie Grote-Garcia, UIW, at Southwest Social Science Association Annual Meeting, Austin Texas, April 13-15, 2017.

Global refugee crisis and South Asia’s geopolitics: The case of the Bhutanese refugees, Presented at the Himalayan Policy Research Conference, October 20, 2016, in Madison, Wisconsin, at the pre-conference venue of the University of Wisconsin’s 45th Annual Conference on South Asia (October 20-23, 2016)

“Reaching Diverse Groups through Interfaith Community Service”, Presentation at the 5th President’s Fifth Annual Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge Fall Gathering , Howard University, Washington D.C. September 10-11, 2015 ( With Monica Cruz, Director ECCL and Maria Bedolla and Irene Tombo (Students)

“Diaspora Made, Unmade and Remade: The Bhutanese Refugee Crisis”, presented at the The International and Interdisciplinary Conference on ‘Knowledge, Reality and Value: East and West’, ( Sponsored by: Center for Spirituality, Ethics and Global Awareness, Davis & Elkins College), January 3rd-January 5th 2013, Kolkata, India.

Interviewed for a News Article and Video: “More undocumented Indians attempt to enter the United States”, By Journalist Shabnam Surita,  DW (Deutsche Welle) | 2000 M St NW #335 | Washington, DC 20036 | United States (

Invited Speaker/ Panelist: Faith Lifts: A storytelling event, Sponsored by the SOL center, and  Interfaith San Antonio Alliance, October 3rd, 2022.

Invited Speaker: Refugee Resettlement, Service Learning and Career Opportunities: Understanding a Global Crisis, Presentation History Department, Ataturk University, Erzurum, Turkey, June 14th 2022.

Discussion: Discussion on Refugee research, and South Asian Diaspora studies, with graduate students at Ataturk University, Erzurum, Turkey, June 15th 2022.

Invited Panelist: Multi-stakeholder consultation on South Asia: Media, Information, and Participation in Displacement and Migration Settings – How free is the media? organized by the Calcutta Research Group (CRG), DW Akademie (DWA), and the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA). The meetings, supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, were held online on February 28 (Monday), March 2 (Wednesday), March 9 (Wednesday), and March 10 (Thursday), 2022

Invited speaker: Displacement, Migration and Citizenship: Bhutanese Refugee Resettlement in the United States, University of Texas at and Austin Community Colleges-FLS Global Citizenship , Nov. 12, 2021.

Invited speaker and Panelist: U.S. China Relations, China Town Hall, Organized by World Affairs Council, Alamo Asian Chamber of Commerce and University of Texas at San Antonio, Nov. 10, 2020.

 Red Talk: Refugee Resettlement, Service Learning and Career Opportunities: Understanding a Global Crisis and building Compassion, UIW Alumni Association, October 28th 2020.

Ms. Navya Shah

Advocacy and Resettlement Fellow, Too Young to Wed

Ms. Navya Shah’s Bio

Navya is a human rights advocate currently serving as Too Young to Wed’s advocacy and resettlement fellow. She recently completed her LLM (Masters of Law) at Georgetown University and specialized in international human rights and refugee law. She completed her bachelors of law at the University of Nottingham in the UK, where she also worked and supported various defense and Human Rights NGOs. Navya represented the biggest international NGO run by law students, as a delegate to the 81st session on the Convention on the Rights of the Child at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva. She founded and assisted a refugee clinic, the first of its kind in the UK at her alma mater, where she worked on refugee status determination cases with UNHCR in Cairo and supported attorneys with case assistance and country specific research. She has continued her fight for human rights in Washington DC, where she represented refugees and immigrants at a non-profit called Ayuda and spearheaded legal advocacy and representation of indigent clients at the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission. Her work will continue at TYTW.