The story of Lydia María Cacho Rìbeiro
The background (origins, personal story)
Lydia María Cacho Rìbeiro was born in 1963 in Mexico City. She became a journalist at 23 years old, specializing in gender issues and human rights. She is a feminist and a human rights activist who has been keen on defending human rights from an early age. Thanks to her mother, who has been her source of inspiration, Lydia has dedicated her life to investigating and exposing human trafficking, sexual violence, organized crime, corruption, and impunity. Amnesty International described her as "perhaps Mexico's most famous investigative journalist and women's rights advocate." Cacho is the winner of numerous international awards for her journalism, including the Civil Courage Prize, the Wallenberg Medal, and the Olof Palme Prize. In 2010, she was named a World Press Freedom Hero of the International Press Institute. When describing her job, she said: "I believe the role of journalism is to be a lantern, allowing society to exercise its right to know and understand; I believe human rights are non-negotiable. As long as I live, I will continue to write, and writing will keep me alive."
The barrier(s) that she is trying to address
Lydia's work as a journalist and her activism as a citizen are intertwined. Through her investigative reporting, Lydia Cacho willingly exposes herself at risk to fight against discrimination, racism, and violence against women and girls by writing it. When trying to achieve human dignity and equality, Cacho's aspiration was full of challenges. Working as a female journalist in Mexico can be dangerous, and being a women's rights activist even more so. In 2005, she released her book "The Demons of Eden" on stories of girls' abuses and pornography in a Cancún beach resort, exposing high-profile politicians and influential businessmen. In her book, Lydia Cacho revealed how several powerful men had been involved in the pederast-pedophile network. She reported on the ties of businessman José Kamel Nacif Borge, El rey de la mezclilla, the "King of Denim," for his jeans’ factories, and Jean Succar Kuri, the owner of a hotel in Cancún who was to be charged with child pornography. Consequently, Lydia was accused of libel and defamation and got arrested by the police in Cancún. During her detention, Lydia suffered several waves of abuse by the public enforcement that she later reported. She has been kidnapped, raped, assaulted, and tortured for 20 hours. She also received 20 death threats over the phone if she did not stop reporting. Nevertheless, Cacho refused to be silenced, and, in 2006, she wrote on the hundreds of female homicides in Ciudad Juárez. The injustices and abuses she suffered acted as a motivational strength to keep forward with her cause and defend her human rights, together with every other girl. In addition, in 2018, her documentary Somos valientes, “We are brave,” was released, which details the effect of violence on Mexican children. For two years, Lydia Cacho, the director of this docuseries, traveled with a team of documentary filmmakers and human rights experts to five different states in the country to talk and interview children about their rights. Afterward, in 2020, she was the host and executive producer of a bilingual podcast about femicide along the border in Ciudad Juárez through interviews with the investigators and the victims' families who tried to solve the crimes. The podcast was called "the Red Note" in English and "La Nota Roja" in Spanish.
The impact on women's empowerment
When Lydia Cacho realized how many women needed help and advice, she decided to start a support group. The support group later evolved into a maximum-security shelter for women and children; a formal institution called El Centro Integral de Atención a las Mujeres, in Cancun. El Centro is a non-profit organization funded by donations whose staff is composed of professionals in defense of victims. Thanks to her high-security shelter, Cacho provides a safe space for survivors of trafficking, domestic violence, and other forms of abuse and exploitation to access health, legal and other support services. El Centro helps the victim with legal assistance, and they take all the cases from the beginning to the end. The survivors can remain in the facility for one year to one year and a half to get the psychological treatment they deserve and protection from the predators. Further, the shelter has the objective to find a safe place for victims of abuse and takes the responsibility to train them to reintegrate into society with work skills to be independent and feel free again. The Cancun center for aid to women and their children has been recognized as one of the best aid centers in Mexico. Lydia’s mission through this shelter is to advocate for the endowment of women in health and education.
In conclusion, promoting gender equality and strengthening women's rights is essential for sustainable development. People like Lydia María Cacho Rìbeiro should serve as an example to overcome inequality. Her work and her bravery helped many girls to come forward and bring their oppressors to justice and take back control of their lives. She dedicated her years as an activist to the cause by deciding to denounce on paper the suffering of women, even if that required putting herself in danger. Through her book, she sent many criminals to prison and gave voice to many victims in different parts of the country. Additionally, after her detention following the publication of “The Demons of Eden,” journalism was decriminalized; hence, journalists could no longer be held accountable for defamation and libel. Her court case, together with the media reaction, and the intervention of political actors, initiated a process of change. Thanks to her book, also legislation concerning child pornography has evolved considerably. Particularly in a country like Mexico, which is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalism, the work of Lydia is essential. The prizes she was accredited with and the international visibility she received acted as a shield and provided her protection. To conclude, Lydia Cacho firmly believes in the importance of electronic media and its decisive role in accessing information. She criticizes media monopoly, one of the most significant problems in Mexico, and fight to keep community radio stations alive as they are vital for the freedom of information and to spread the news across the country.