My name is Maria Luisa Aguilar Rodriguez, a passionate human rights defender from Mexico. My educational background is in international relations and human rights. After studying and working for a year on a conflict prevention project in the United Kingdom, I moved to the southwest of Mexico, joining an amazing organization: the Human Rights Center “Tlachinollan”.
Tlachinollan is a non-governmental organization working for the last 18 years on the promotion and defense of human rights of the naua, me’phaa, na savi and nn’ancuee indigenous people and mestizos from the Montaña and Costa Chica region of Guerrero. We are based and work in one of the most impoverished regions of Mexico, where marginalization, discrimination and exclusion are a reality for most indigenous people.
The historical context of extreme marginalization and exclusion has become even more complex due to different dynamics in which increasing violence associated to drug trafficking and militarization of the country, interrelated with discrimination, the absence of an effective and fair justice system, land conflicts, imposition of “development” megaprojects, and exclusion from basic services, severely impact indigenous communities. All of these dynamics have an even greater impact on the indigenous women in the region.
In this context, Tlachinollan has put together a multicultural team, which includes professionals from the region, members of the indigenous communities who speak local languages, and take part in traditions and customs. We are an interdisciplinary team – which I am proud to be part of – made up of lawyers, sociologists, anthropologists, community development workers, communications, and international affairs advocates who accompany indigenous peoples in their struggles to claim and exercise their rights.
During my two years working as an International Unit Officer in Tlachinollan, I have come to understand the meaning of “accompanying”. Tlachinollan’s team has developed comprehensive strategies to be the voice, provide tools and advocate for, those who defend their land and territory, their normative systems, their traditions and customs, their culture. We accompany and provide support to those who face exclusion on a daily basis and demand access to education, health services, etc.; and who have been repressed and abused, without anyone being held accountable. Many have been subject to gross human rights violations, and throughout their struggle for justice have taken the lead as human rights defenders. Such is with the cases, of Ines Fernandez and Valentina Rosendo, two brave indigenous women who stood up against military impunity.
I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be part of the Nobel Women’s Initiative mentorship program, being able to learn from its amazing team, as well as share this experience with Aghssan and Walaa. This is a great opportunity for me to raise the voice of those I work with everyday, and tell you all about the stories of those women and men who are back home, fighting for justice and dignity and who unfortunately cannot share their story with you directly.