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 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 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 began organizing with Young Women United as a community member at the age of 19 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In her role as Policy Manager at 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 10-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. In her role as the Community Organizing Manager Alicia facilitates conversations and actions to build a deeper, embodied experience of reproductive justice. Through our sister circles she builds trust and relationships with our communities which hopefully leads to systemic change. She facilitates the Rosebud Institute in which self-identified young women, gender non-binary, and trans women of color ages 13-19 learn more about the different facets of YWU’s work and their place within that. Once they graduate the institute the young people have an opportunity to join the leadership youth organizing Circle of Strength. Once a month, Alicia facilitates Las Pláticas for self-identified women, gender non-binary, and trans women of color to talk about sex, sexuality, our bodies, self-empowerment, self-care and love. Alicia has her Master’s Degree in Community and Regional Planning and an emphasis in Community Development. She studied the traditional practices of water sharing in New Mexico to inform community organizing. She loves 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.  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 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). 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

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.

As the Accounts Manager at YWU, she likes to think of herself as the person who keeps the organizers accounts organized so that they may better support our communities. Creating art brings her peace and keeps her centered. Gardening keeps her rooted and spending time with pets brings her sheer joy. Monica holds a BA in Women’s Studies with an emphasis on Body Image from New Mexico State University.





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 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.