YWU Staff

Tannia Esparza, Executive Director

Tannia Esparza is a Queer Xicana from Santa Barbara, CA who is proud to come from an immigrant family of strong, determined women. For the past four years she has been honored to have found home in the brave, resilient layers of brown in Nuevo Mexico. She is the Executive Director at Young Women United (YWU), where she leads policy, community organizing and culture shift strategies to build communities where all people can make real decisions about their own bodies and lives. Tannia has been active in social justice movements for over 17 years working on racial justice, immigrant rights, gender justice, and LGBTQ liberation. She is a writer who reclaims storytelling and embodied knowledge as trauma healing tools in her reproductive justice work. Her most recent writing can be found in Latina Magazine, NBC News, New Mexico’s Greenfire Times, and the Malpais Review. As a recent fellow of the Rockwood Leadership Institute’s Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice Cohort, she is committed to living as an act of love and more inspired than ever by reproductive justice leaders who are fiercely and lovingly envisioning a world where we can all thrive.

Denicia Cadena, Policy and Cultural Strategy Director

Denicia Cadena is a queer Chican@ born and raised in Mesilla, New Mexico. Denicia is the Policy Director of Young Women United (YWU), an organization that leads community organizing and policy efforts by and for young women of color in New Mexico. Denicia leads the design and implementation of YWU’s change making strategies. She works to make sure the voices and expertise of those most impacted by an issue are centered in decision-making spaces. Denicia has deep experience working on issues of reproductive justice, racial justice, and queer justice.

A proud sister, aunt, daughter, and friend–Denicia couldn’t imagine herself without all the strong women and folks that have shaped her. As a former welder and sculptor, Denicia knows that some ways of knowing and understanding can only be expressed through art. Denicia holds a BA in History with a concentration in Diaspora Studies from Amherst College.

Micaela Cadena, Research Director

Micaela Cadena is a chicana New Mexican from a family/chosen family of resilient mujeres in the Mesilla Valley.  Micaela is the Research Director at Young Women United. In this position, Micaela facilitates opportunities to learn from the expertise and lived experiences of women and families in New Mexico. For many years, Micaela has worked to improve access to pregnancy related care that New Mexicans may need over their lives, including perinatal care for pregnant people in cycles of substance use and addiction and midwifery care as a respectful model that can positively impact disparities in health outcomes within our communities.

Previously, Micaela worked at the New Mexico Corrections Department as the Bureau Chief of Recidivism Reduction. In her tenure at the Corrections Department, Micaela was responsible for articulating arguments to move the population of female inmates from a privately-operated prison facility where they have been poorly housed for more than two decades, to a pair of state-operated prisons. With the intention of better identifying and serving their risks and needs of women and people in NMCD custody, Micaela worked to build feasible strategies for making the New Mexico prison system gender-responsive, trauma-informed and evidenced-based. Micaela was also responsible for implementing a state law passed in 2015, Medicaid for Incarcerated Individuals, that mandated the Corrections Department to determine Medicaid eligibility of inmates prior to their release from prison.

Micaela has experience leading policy, evaluation, and organizational development efforts in non-profit advocacy and within state government.  Micaela is raising two funny, kind, knowing and bright daughters– with her best friend/partner. Micaela’s graduate thesis research was an analysis of the access low-income women of color have to homebirth in New Mexico. Micaela has a Masters degree in Community and Regional Planning from the University of New Mexico.

Esperanza Dodge, Policy Manager

Esperanza is a proud New Mexican Hispanic, born and raised in ‘burque, New Mexico. Esperanza is YWU’s Policy Manager. Being a mother to 10 yr-old Julián has fueled her passion to work hard for justice for all families, including families living through addiction and incarceration.  She works to make breastfeeding advocacy more inclusive of families of color, LGBTQ families, young parents and low-income families. Creativity and art is at the core of Esperanza’s well-being and is what helps ground and inspire her in doing this challenging, yet exciting work. Esperanza holds a BA degree in Sociology and a MSW in Bilingual/Bicultural Social Work.

Alicia Chavez, Youth & Community Organizer

Alicia Sofia Chavez is a Xicana from Pecos, New Mexico. Alicia is YWU’s Youth & Community Organizer. In this role she organizes with young people to get them the knowledge, resources, and tools to make the changes they want to see in their communities. Through our sister circles she builds trust and relationships with our communities. She leads: Circle of Strength for young women 13-19 , and Panocha Pláticas, conversations on sex, sexuality, and women’s empowerment. Her life’s work has been dedicated to educating and empowering youth to be leaders in their community. Alicia is currently in pursuit of her Masters in Community and Regional Planning at The University of New Mexico. She loves cookies, glitter, dancing, laughing, and exploring.


Victoria Torres, Programs Assistant

 Victoria Torres is from Los Lunas, New Mexico and the proud mama of three.  As Young Women United’s Programs Assistant, she provides support YWU programs and campaigns.  She works hard to ensure that YWU is a safe and welcoming space for everyone who walks through doors.  In her spare time, she loves to watch and play soccer.



 Naomie Germain, Policy Fellow

Naomie Germain is a proud Haitian-American born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Naomie is YWU’s policy fellow and in this role, Naomie facilitates leadership development and organizing activities related to improving and maintaining access to reproductive health. Naomie graduated from the University of New Mexico with a degree in political science, and is a former Miss New Mexico USA titleholder (2016). She received the Living Portrait Award in 2015 from the National Council of Negro Women for her volunteer work in the community and hopes to continue her work in public service with Young Women United.

Kat Sanchez, Communications and Digital Strategies Fellow

Kat Sanchez is a queer Latina working as the Communications and Digital Strategies Fellow at Young Women United (YWU). In that role, Kat raises the visibility of YWU’s organizational purpose and work. Originally from El Paso, TX, Kat returned to the Mesilla Valley after spending the better part of a decade in Hollywood and Harlem. Kat’s advocacy roots include policy work for LGBTQ rights, gender justice, and a host of issues with the ACLU of Southern California. Kat has extensive experience in the world of radio having worked on the LGBTQ show, IMRU on KPFK in Los Angeles, and produced two talk shows as well as newscasts for Sirius Satellite Radio’s LGBTQ channel, OutQ. Kat and her partner, whom she met on the roller derby track, have four teenagers and maintain the busy side job of chauffeur for their activities. Kat earned her degree in Journalism & Mass Communications from NMSU.

Monica Girón, Accounts Manager

(Bio coming soon.)


Young Women United Consultants

Raquel Z. Rivera

Raquel Z. Rivera, Ph.D. is an author, researcher, and Visiting Scholar at the University of New Mexico’s Sociology Department. Her research interests are: popular and folk music, Latino and Caribbean studies, diaspora and nation, race and ethnicity, and reproductive justice. Author of New York Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003) and co-editor of the anthology Reggaeton (Duke University Press, 2009), her articles have been published in numerous books, journals, magazines, and newspapers. While her prior and ongoing research on music and popular culture has been and still is deeply fulfilling, collaborating with the brilliant team at YWU has been her most meaningful research experience to date. YWU’s commitment to collective work and centering the expertise of those most affected by an issue has radically altered her perception of how research can and should be done.

Keioshiah Peter

(Bio coming soon.)

Yahaira Carreras

(Bio coming soon.)