We celebrated our 30th anniversary 2015! In honor of this milestone, we profiled 30 remarkable leaders who have partnered with AJWS to build a better world. These are but a few of the thousands who have raised their voices worldwide with our support, changing the lives of millions for the better.
Prosecuting powerful adversaries of indigenous rights
Mexican land and labor rights champion Alejandra Ancheita has brought hope to some of her country’s poorest and most disenfranchised citizens—migrants, workers and indigenous people. During her 17 years on the frontlines of her country’s land rights struggle, she and the organization she founded, ProDESC, have joined hands with indigenous communities to fight illegal mines and hold companies accountable for the damage they are causing to the land and the people who depend on it for survival.
Thanks to ProDESC’s advocacy, one company that had been mining land without the consent of local residents was forced to sign a groundbreaking agreement with the local people. The company committed to pay for initiatives to counteract the devastating effects of the mine, stop evicting residents and hire them to fill jobs on the project. After this victory, ProDESC helped workers organize their own union and continues to pressure the company to uphold its obligations.
Chillingly, several of Alejandra’s friends and family have been killed for their work. Her own life has been threatened repeatedly and in 2013, ProDESC’s offices were broken into. In a 2014 interview, Alejandra spoke about the efforts of members of the Mexican media to vilify her: “This article is saying I am the lawyer of the devil,” she said. “The defamation campaign against me and other activists is creating public permission for violence.”
In 2014, in recognition of her remarkable contribution to the Mexican human rights movement, Alejandra received the international Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, often referred to as the Nobel Prize for human rights.
According to Alejandra:
“AJWS has been a key ally in achieving our vision and mission. [AJWS’s] uninterrupted solidarity, energy and encouragement have been vital in enabling us to carry out our work, despite the violence
and threats we face.”