My friend the activist
She is Mexican, woman, young and a women’s and girls’ human rights activist. We met around 2004 in the city of Monterrey, while working together in the Student Association for the Indigenous Peoples, back then we were just college students dreaming of a better world, but those of us who knew Lulu, knew of her true commitment to the community and her work in promoting equality and respect for human rights.
And so we graduated, we travelled, we came back, and after seven years I have come to coincide with her again, but this time in Mexico City, over time Lulu has changed jobs, home, school, but her dedication and commitment to grassroots activism remains the same as before. While talking to her at a party I realize I have to know more about her past and the work she has been doing during all these years and that has led her to become the President of the Executive Committee of Amnesty International Mexico.
Migration as a life experience
Although Lourdes V. Barrera was born in Mexico City, at age 15 she had to move to Monterrey, a traditionally conservative and elitist city with well-defined standards of what being a man and a woman means, situation that led her to make a deep reflection about femininity and how power relations between sexes are constructed by society. “It meant your whole existence, you were not read, were not perceived, if you didn’t complied with certain rules, that also determined several aspects of being a woman”, she says about her experience in a catholic high school in Monterrey.
It was then that sensitivity to gender issues began to be latent in her; however, it isn’t at this precise moment that she decided to become an activist, but later on when she started reading prehispanic literature and after a study trip to Los Angeles that put her in touch with the vulnerable situation of migrants. “Being in Los Angeles was a life changing experience, you could feel the sense of struggle”, she says.
During this time she also came into contact with the Zapatista movement, and it was then that she decided to turn her life around and join Amnesty International as a volunteer, where she has been working for over ten years now as a human rights activist in our country.
Becoming an activist
At first the work of Lulu as an activist was not well received by her family “Lulu is acting again like Robin Hood”, they told her, “When will you get paid?” they asked her, while at the same time she was being criticized by friends for declaring herself a feminist. But ultimately, she says convinced, you realize that those words mean nothing.
Amnesty is an organization that for more than 36 years has been implementing strategies for action, education, advocacy and research focused on preventing and ending abuses of human rights of individuals and groups in Mexico and around the world. As part of her work in this organization, Lulu has secured the release of many prisoners of conscience, launched campaigns against gender based violence and femicide in Mexico and Central America, sensitized on the rights of indigenous peoples and migrants, fought for the passing of laws in favor of women’s and girl’s humans rights, such as the decriminalization of abortion.
Thanks to her hard work, since 2005 Lulu has also been representing Amnesty International Mexico in various international forums and events, and from 2008 to 2010 she was elected President of the Youth Advisory Committee at a global level, where she was responsible, along seven other people, for the evaluation of an AI plan that aimed at increasing the participation of young people from “south” countries in the organization. “It was super cool because we all had very different experiences and different ways of working”.
After this experience, she was elected President of the Executive Committee, the highest government organ in Amnesty International in our country, responsible for monitoring all the work of the organization related to human rights work, administrative work, budget, etc. From here, Lulu advises and guides the operation of the activities of AI Mexico in favor of human rights.
The change that is coming
When asked about what keeps her motivated to keep going despite the obstacles and dangers that human rights activists face in Mexico, she tells me right away that more than the successes, it’s everything that has not yet been achieved, is “reading outrageous cases, cases that break your heart and make you realize that things don’t have to be the way they are, that people don’t have to be violated and attacked”, and you can feel the pasion in her voice. Lulu knows she shares this struggle with a lot more people and that each of us is responsible of doing something to change the situation.
Without noticing we've been talking for almost one hour and we are about to finish our interview when she confesses that when you are an activist "success is the last step and you don’t always get there” and that is why we must keep fighting with a strong sense of humanity, she says. It is true that while every little achievement gives her hope to continue, the challenges remaining are many and must be faced. Before saying goodbye I ask her what she thinks about the future, she smiles with hope, and we agree that we want to see women and girls from Mexico aware of their rights and with enough confidence to excercise them and defend them. “The point is, this is already happening”, she concludes.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.