Lisa Padilla, alumna of the University of New Mexico, is the gender justice organizer for NM Con Mujeres, a subsidiary of the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) in Albuquerque. Her work, both domestically and internationally, concentrates its efforts on gender justice to combat the global consequences of the patriarchy.
Padilla’s organizational efforts have global implications, she said, as she represents NM Con Mujeres in conversations on LGBT rights at the assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), which is a conglomeration of representatives from the nongovernmental parties throughout the Western hemisphere.
Many representatives at OAS forums represent anti-abortion agendas, which is why Padilla said it’s important for her to use her voice as an advocate for gender equity.
“(This includes) going up to the legislature and taking youth to have their voices heard around issues of gender justice,” Padilla said.
According to Padilla, the Chicana and Chicano Studies program at UNM set her up for success as an organizer in the community.
“It turned out to be the kind of experience that was life-changing for me,” Padilla said. “Just having the chance to glimpse some of the history and injustices that have happened to our people inspired me.”
Padilla said she also holds a feminist youth workshop for young community members in both English and Spanish, which highlights the accessibility of her programs.
“We have a monthly meeting where we talk about various issues including bodily autonomy, LGBT rights … all kinds of topics as they pertain to gender justice,” Padilla said. “It’s been such a powerful project.”
Padilla supported a mask-making initiative by intern Monica Demarco in the earlier stages of the COVID-19 outbreak when decent personal protective equipment was scarce, which employed immigrants in New Mexico to sew masks, according to Padilla.
“There were people detained at the border that we were able to send masks to,” Padilla said.
Masks were also sent to native reservations, sex workers and trans folks who lacked access. Padilla emphasized the importance of working to facilitate pandemic-oriented support for diverse, underserved communities through the mask-making program.
Beva Sanchez-Padilla, retired gender justice organizer and Padilla’s mentor, attested to the impact of the project and said Padilla’s work employed over 140 immigrant seamstresses.
“As a woman — Chicana woman — and being educated around the colonized history of history, (Padilla) naturally is a feminist,” Sanchez-Padilla said. “She sees how our perception of history … is really important without reducing what our history has been. Our existence here is complex.”
Sanchez-Padilla said it’s important to support immigrant labor, which NM Con Mujeres was able to do by connecting with adjacent organizations in New Mexico, such as Street Safe New Mexico and the Trans Woman Empowerment Initiative.
“That took the feminist economy work to another level … We had classes in which they learned the ins and outs of creating their own business,” Padilla said. “This was huge because some of these women had never had a bank account of their own.”
Padilla said this work reinforces the feminist economy, which is an idea constructed to illustrate economics that support gender-inclusive labor and markets.
“When women can work together — meaning when they’re not interrupted by other people that think they don’t know what they’re doing — they were able to raise (approximately) $250,000 and pay immigrant women of color,” Sanchez-Padilla said. “It was all because of the feminist economy pushback that … Con Mujeres had.”
Padilla is currently organizing for the Rally for Abortion Justice this Saturday, Oct. 2 at Tiguex Park with SWOP chair member Samia Assedin in response to Texas’ recent ban on abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
“The Texas law has increased pressure on people who seek abortions,” Padilla said. “We are also hoping to raise (money) for abortion funds here in New Mexico to pay for people (from Texas) to come and have their healthcare needs met.”
Padilla said campaigning for youth LGBTQ+ rights in legislative processes and at the OAS is also important. Sanchez-Padilla said Padilla has worked extensively with an LGBTQ+ group out of Washington, D.C. to pressure the OAS to include LGBTQ+ rights in the Human Rights Handbook, which they have not yet done.
In addition, Padilla said her interactions with Evangelical Christians at the OAS convenings illustrated to her just how vastly different their views on gender issues were.
According to Padilla, working on a global scale, especially with Central America and South America, is important to her because her mom’s side of the family is from Chihuahua, Mexico.
“Part of our coalition has been raising awareness about what people go through in Central and South America,” Padilla said. “There were a lot of terrible consequences for trans folks of color in Central and South America (during the pandemic).”
In these countries specifically, this activism is important so that politicians can hear different perspectives, according to Padilla.
“It’s so important for us to be in those spaces as a controvening narrative because (politicians) have a lot of money and influence in those countries,” Padilla said. “If they don’t hear from us, politicians tend to believe that everyone thinks (the same).”
Padilla continues her advocacy work through gender equity initiatives in New Mexico and across the border to defend the integrity of justice and bodily autonomy.
“Once you are hired as an organizer (at SWOP) you’re really allowed — almost on an anarchist level — to pursue areas of work that contribute to the movement of justice somehow and (Padilla) took that on,” Sanchez-Padilla said.
Rebecca Hobart is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DailyLobo