Mónica Ramirez is a long-time advocate, organizer, social entrepreneur, and attorney fighting to eliminate gender-based violence and secure gender equity. For over two decades, she has fought for the civil and human rights of women, children, workers, Latinos/as, and immigrants.
In 2002, Mónica Ramirez started her first legal project in the United States while she was a law student applying for a postgraduate fellowship. The project focused on representing farmworker women and was later scaled in 2006 to become a national project known as Esperanza: The Immigrant Women’s Legal Initiative of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In 2014, Mónica took this project a step further, scaling it once again to create Justice for Migrant Women, a stand-alone initiative to serve migrant women and their families. Since 2021, the organization is now a 501(c)(3) independent non-profit.
Today, Justice for Migrant Women works to amplify the voices of migrant women and the struggles they face in their personal and work lives and create space for them when so many of them are silenced.
Through public awareness and educational campaigns, art activism, and strategic media initiatives, Justice for Migrant Women is bringing the issues and struggles of migrant women to the forefront of national conversation.
“I come from a family of farmworkers, so Justice for Migrant Women was born out of love for my community and a commitment to serve migrant women and their families, many of whom remind me of my own family,” says Justice for Migrant Women President and Founder.
Like the people she serves as a leader and advocate, Mónica has faced doubt and criticism throughout her career for her identity as a Latina.
“Throughout my career, some of the biggest obstacles that I have faced relate to the fact that I am a young Latina woman. Many people doubted my ability to create or sustain an organization to make my vision become a reality. They questioned my credentials and whether I could be the kind of leader worth investing in,” Mónica says. “I serve individuals who are also doubted and not given enough credit for their resilience, strength, and courage. They somehow not only survive but thrive and help the rest of us survive, too!”
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Mónica has served women and families who have overcome some of the most unimaginable, most difficult circumstances. Despite challenges, they continue moving forward. Mónica believes we can all learn so many lessons just through their example.
“Part of my mission has been making sure that these stories are heard, but largely my mission has been focused on doing all that it is in my power to change these conditions so that we can remove the barriers.
I hope that from my story and from the example of those who I serve, readers will find comfort in knowing that believing in ourselves has value and we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of believing in ourselves.”
“Together we will win”
As an entrepreneur and leader, Mónica is a risk-taker with a willingness to innovate and test things out. This mindset has been key to much of her progress and success with her organization.
“We don’t always know what is going to work or what campaign will be successful, but winning justice and equality isn’t dependent on one thing. It’s many different tactics and strategies—wins and failures, plus the learnings along the way—that will help us achieve our goals.
Another key strength that has been a pillar throughout Mónica’s career is her passion for building communities and partnerships. Community is at the heart of Justice for Migrant Women and the work they do.
Mónica shares a favorite quote: “Together we will win.” This quote has stuck with her over the years and driven her work as an advocate and leader.
“In this line of work it’s necessary that we all remember that social change can not come from the back of an individual, it takes a diverse and dedicated community of allies. Justice for Migrant Women is such a wonderful example of that type of community, where individuals from all walks of life come together to protect and uplift migrant women,” she says.
“There is too much need and work to do in this world to ever even consider wanting to do it on my own. I want to have as many people as possible on my team, using their strengths, skills and heart to drive change. I would rather spend my time building bridges and figuring out a way that we can all win rather than limiting opportunities or resources so that only a few people win.”
Get involved with Justice for Migrant Women
“A valuable lesson that I have learned from the community is that staying the course is important but so is remembering that sometimes we need friends, family and allies to help support us along the way. It’s important to ask for help and there is no shame in asking for what we need,” says Mónica.
Are you ready to join the community and help amplify the voices of migrant women? Here are a few projects and initiatives by Justice for Migrant Women to look into!
The Humans Who Feed Us
Thousands of individuals work across the food supply chain ranging from agricultural workers, restaurant workers, grocery store employees, truck drivers, meat and poultry workers, and so many others. Immigrant community members are among those who help to feed us through their work. Many of these workers are often invisible to people and the communities where they work and live even though they touch our lives every day through their life-sustaining labor.
Launched in August 2021, “The Humans Who Feed Us” seeks to center these workers, their stories, their contributions, and their priorities. The project humanizes workers across the food supply chain; shows the interdependence among businesses, the workers they employ and consumers; and fosters a sense of belonging for these incredible community members in the places where they live and work.
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The Bandana Project
The Bandana Project is a public awareness campaign aimed at addressing the issue of workplace sexual violence against migrant farmworker women in the United States. White bandanas are used as a symbol of the sexual exploitation of farmworker women because farmworker women have said that they use their clothes, including bandanas, to protect them from sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.
Community members, community organizations, governmental representatives, lawyers, anti-sexual violence activists and many others decorate and exhibit white bandanas to show their solidarity with the fight to end this serious problem.
Healing Voices Project
The “Healing Voices” project is a unique new idea to address a critical gap in the farmworker organizing ecosystem – focusing on healing personal and community trauma as a needed step in increasing power for farmworkers to be drivers of change.
Supported by funding from The Workers Lab Innovation Fund and the Collective Future Fund, Justice for Migrant Women is working in partnership with the National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Association (NMSHSA), the Eva Longoria Foundation (ELF) and Latinx Therapy to pilot this first-of-its-kind mental health initiative for farmworkers. The work will support the holistic healing of some of the 2.5 to 3 million US farmworkers who have experienced decades of traumatizing working conditions, economic insecurity and vulnerability, all of which were exacerbated by COVID-19.
To learn more about Justice for Migrant Women’s projects visit justice4women.org