Standing Up for Girls in Mexico

September 30, 2022

Rise Up Leader Claudia Elizabeth Cuéllar Ochoa began her journey as a Rise Up Leader in 2020

Even when faced with the most challenging situations, Claudia Elizabeth Cuéllar Ochoa has found hope and taken action to protect girls in Mexico. Claudia is a lawyer and the founder of Luminas Centro de Derechos Humanos, where she works to prevent violence and abuse towards youth and adolescents. With training and support from Rise Up, Claudia is managing the implementation of an integral care model for girls who have experienced sexual violence. Through the reform of strategic laws to defend their rights, this work will protect more than 350,000 girls up to the age of 19.

We reached out to Claudia to understand more about her work.

Note: Responses have been translated from Spanish and edited for length and clarity.

RU: Why did you choose to focus your advocacy work on violence against girls?

Claudia: The rights of girls and adolescents is something that has always been important to me, but a defining moment in my professional career was when I worked in a domestic violence shelter. For the first time, I supported cases dealing with sexual violence against girls and adolescents and that brought me face to face with this problem. In the shelter, girls can stay up to three months with their mothers. I began to investigate the cases of sexual violence in my town and in Mexico, and I realized how alarming the figures were in the case of girls and adolescents and how complicated it is for them. They feel alone and it is very difficult for them to find help and feel supported. My mission is to support them and seek justice.

RU: How did Rise Up help you reach your goals?

Claudia: The [Rise Up] training gave me access to new tools. The support network created [among leaders] is much more than just a network; some of them are already family. We have similar points of view, seek to achieve a common good, and we support and accompany each other. Community spaces are very valuable for me, and these spaces allow our goals to be achieved sometimes collectively.

Rise Up Leader Claudia Elizabeth Cuéllar Ochoa (left) with Rise Up’s Mexico Country Representative Fabiola Rivera Rojas (right)

RU: Do you have a personal connection to this job?

Claudia: Yes, I have an important connection because at different times in my life sexual violence has been present. When I started going to therapy, I realized that it is much more difficult than it seems to remember these types of events, and that it is during childhood when these experiences are more difficult to understand. When we are girls our support network is our family, however, what happens when the family is not a safe or trustworthy space to talk about the issue? In most cases of sexual violence, girls do not share with anyone out of shame.

RU: How do you stay motivated?

Claudia: With each story, something that Reiki has taught me is that people learn and heal with every experience. Every girl or teenager I support means a lot to me.