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 change, research, place-based community organizing, and culture shift strategies by and for women and people of color in New Mexico. 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 writings 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 Director
Denicia Cadena is a queer Chicana born and raised in Mesilla, New Mexico. Denicia is the Policy Director of Young Women United (YWU), an organization that leads policy change, research, place-based community organizing, and culture shift by and for women and people 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 (YWU), an organization that leads policy change, research, place-based community organizing, and culture shift by and for women and people of color in New Mexico. 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 began organizing as a community member at the age of 19 with Young Women United (YWU), an organization that leads policy change, research, place-based community organizing, and culture shift by and for women and people of color in New Mexico. In her role as Policy Manager for YWU she is proud to work on reproductive justice issues by and for women of color. Esperanza believes birth and parenting justice should include those most impacted, including women and families living through addiction, and young parents. Her greatest adventures are with her 11-yr old son, Julián, who inspires her to continue doing this meaningful work everyday. Esperanza has a MSW in Bilingual/Bicultural Social Work from New Mexico Highlands University.
Alicia Chavez, Community Organizing Manager
Alicia Chavez is a Xicana with roots in New Mexico stemming back for multiple generations. Alicia is the Community Organizing Manager for Young Women United (YWU), an organization that leads policy change, research, place-based community organizing, and culture shift by and for women and people of color in New Mexico. In that role Alicia leads the organizing strategy and actions to ensure that those most impacted by an issue are there to strategize and speak at the decision making table. Alicia has been working with youth and community in different capacities for over 12 years in New Mexico. Alicia has her Master’s Degree in Community and Regional Planning with an emphasis in Community Development. She studied the traditional practices of water sharing in New Mexico to inform community organizing. She loves her family, friends, cookies, glitter, dancing, learning, laughing, and exploring.
Victoria Torres, Programs Assistant
Victoria Torres is from Los Lunas, New Mexico and the proud mama of three. Victoria is the Programs Assistant with Young Women United (YWU), an organization that leads policy change, research, place-based community organizing, and culture shift by and for women and people of color in New Mexico. In that role she provides support for 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 Associate
Naomie Germain is a proud Haitian-American born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Naomie is the Policy Associate at Young Women United. In her 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 continues her work in public service with Young Women United.
Charlene Bencomo, Policy Fellow
Charlene Bencomo is a native New Mexican, wife, mother, Chicana, recovering special education teacher. She is a proud co-founder of Crossroads City Derby a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization promoting female empowerment and athleticism through the sport of women’s flat track roller derby in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Charlene is currently serving as a Policy Fellow at Young Women United (YWU), an organization that leads policy change, research, place-based community organizing, and culture shift by and for women and people of color in New Mexico. As a YWU Policy Fellow, she shares her passion for advocacy and positive social change. Charlene uses her experiences to educate, inspire, and inform others through her writing and public speaking.
Kat Sánchez, Communications and Digital Strategies Fellow
Kat Sánchez is a queer Latina working as the Communications and Digital Strategies Fellow at Young Women United (YWU), an organization that leads policy change, research, place-based community organizing, and culture shift by and for women and people of color in New Mexico. 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, The LA Gay and Lesbian Center, and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
Kat also 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
Monica Girón is a Mexican/Palestinian-American born in El Paso, TX and raised in Las Cruces, NM. She truly considers herself border-town grown. She is an advocate for Reproductive, Gender, and Racial Justice; with a passion for the Spanish speaking community to know their rights.
Young Women United Consultants
Raquel Z. Rivera, Ph.D.
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 Young Women United (YWU) has been her most meaningful research experience to date. YWU is an organization that leads policy change, research, place-based community organizing, and culture shift by and for women and people of color in New Mexico. 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.