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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.



MaDube's picture

I am inspired

As a young woman looking to become as influential as Lulu is, I am inspired by her example and the knowledge that it can be done. Thank you Kat for your story, well written and inspiring.

katyrdz's picture

Of course you can!

I am glad you found inspiration in Lulu's story! I'm sure you are more than capable of becoming the influential person that you want to be in your community :)

BlueSky's picture

Sharing in the Struggle

I appreciate Lulu's 'come from': she's 'sharing' in a struggle for rights, dignity, equality, justice, etc., and "success is the last step and you don't always get there". All of us, no matter our role, our particular passion, our place 'in the struggle' on the planet, are in it together, pushing toward the same end, for one another. And with Leaders in this struggle with Lulu's 'come from' as 'sharing in the struggle'
, we shall have success.

Thanks Kat for highlighting this sister-Achiever.

katyrdz's picture

Thanks for reading! And I am

Thanks for reading! And I am happy that you found inspiration and support from Lulu's story :) It is important not to get discouraged in this journey.

Rachael Maddock-Hughes's picture


Wonderful story, she sounds like an amazing woman--and she has accomplished so much at such a young age! Your story is very solutions-oriented and gives us a great sense of who Lulu is. What would make this even more compelling as as story is to perhaps add in more detail around the challenges and violence that face Mexico now, particularly violence against women. You hinted at it when you talked about the challenges that face activists, but some details would be great.

Fabulous story, keep up the good work.


"In every human heart there are a few passions that last a lifetime. They're with us from the moment we're born, and nothing can dilute their intensity." Rob Brezny

katyrdz's picture


Thanks for the feedback, Rachel! I will take all of this into account for my next assignment ;)

Paulina Lawsin's picture

I can imagine the hundreds of

I can imagine the hundreds of human rights violation cases that needs to be attended to in Mexico. It will take a strong and persistent activist like Lulu to ensure that the cases will not be neglected. That is her dream.

Thank you Katy for sharing Lulu's story.

Goodluck from the Phiippines,


katyrdz's picture

Yes, Paulina

Yes, Paulina. I am happy to know that there are still common people like my friend fighting for justice. It is important that we stand by their side and do our part of the job, because if we don't do so, we leave them in a very vulnerable situation, and we need more people like her!

Thanks for reading :)

jbaljko's picture

What a woman!

What a great profile piece. The work you and Lulu are doing to affect change deserves a big shout out!
Like Rachael mentioned having a bit more context about the situation in Mexico would create a clearer picture of why Lulu's work with Amnesty is so dire and needed.
I had the good fortune a few years ago to visit Mexico and cities like DF and Monterrey, and it's a country I watch with some regularity. Very much looking forward to reading your next assignments and learning about what else is happening on the ground there.

"The secret of happiness is freedom,
and the secret of freedom, courage."
-Thucydides, ancient Greek historian & author

katyrdz's picture

Thanks Jenn

Thanks for reading and for the feedback, Jen! I am paying a lot of attention and taking notes of all of your comments and I will try and incorporate them to my next assignments ;)

jbaljko's picture

You're great!

Keep up the great work and keep an eye/ear out for juicy details during interviews. Sometimes there are great stories hiding underneath the passing comments people briefly mention. Great job!

"The secret of happiness is freedom,
and the secret of freedom, courage."
-Thucydides, ancient Greek historian & author

Ofalla's picture

Great job!

Hi Katy,
I read your interview with great interest. It made me curious to know more about Lulu and what motivated her to do the kind of work she does. It sounds like she was born with great passion and has channelled it into pursing the rights of others. This is a noble cause and i admire her pursuit in the face of potential danger. I am sure you had a word limit which limited what you might have wanted to say. One thing to explore is if by telling a unique or individual story about the person you are interviewing, (maybe something she said that really moved you) you can share with the reader an insight into the person.
Great job, though, and what a great person to choose for the focus of your assignment. She sounds strong and gutsy...just like you!

mrbeckbeck's picture

Inspiring young leader

Excellent work! This piece is structured so well, and is very informative without being dry at all. I feel a strong connection with Lulu, and am inspired by her passion and commitment to social change work. She is doing great things already in her young life... this is a woman we should all keep our eye on moving into the future!

Thanks for sharing her story here with the world.

PS- Have you shown her the final version of this? Is she a PulseWire member?

Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Manager

EllenWingard's picture

Awakening the activist...

Hi Katy,

Thank you for your powerful piece. You illuminated how the spark is awakened in an activists' soul -- to take a stand and live one's mission and purpose in spite of the risks and dangers. Your story conveyed first the subtle then dramatic transformation of Lulu who may have chosen many paths given her upbringing. Yet instead she has chosen to spend everyday achieving significant impact in releasing prisoners, launching campaigns against gender based violence and working to promote women's and human rights -- all in the midst of the devastating femicide epidemic in Mexico and CA. . Lulu's advancement as a young leader within AI to this level of achievement is also a call to action for anyone who may think "what difference can one person make?"

As a reader Lulu (and you) serve as living examples that it is time for each of us to awaken to our own activism -- tp know we have the support and courage to engage and persevere. Because of your sharing of Lulu's story, I have more perseverance and fortitude to be awake to suffering and injustice and take action rather than be paralyzed or in despair. Lulu's experience as a next generation leader of societal change ignites and inspires me to step up and move from complacency to action.

Thank you for bringing Lulu's story to light. I would love to hear more about how you sustain your vision as an activist and look forward to your next assignments. Congratulations!

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