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 writing 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.

Esperanza Dodge, Mamas Justice Organizer

Esparanza Dodge1Esperanza is a proud New Mexican Hispanic, born and raised in ‘burque, New Mexico. Esperanza is YWU’s Policy Manager. Being a mother to 9yr-old Julián has fueled her passion to work hard for justice for all families, including families living through addiction and incarceration.  She works to make breastfeeding advocacy more inclusive of families of color, LGBTQ families, young parents and low-income families. Esperanza enjoys offering personalized, culturally-relevant breastfeeding and postpartum support to new mamas and parents. Creativity and art is at the core of Esperanza’s well-being and is what helps ground and inspire her in doing this challenging, yet exciting work. Esperanza holds a BA degree in Sociology and a MSW in Bilingual/Bicultural Social Work.

Alicia Chavez, Youth & Community Organizer

Alicia Sofia Chavez is a Xicana from Pecos, New Mexico. Alicia is YWU’s Youth & Community Organizer. In this role she organizes with young people to get them the knowledge, resources, and tools to make the changes they want to see in their communities. Through our sister circles she builds trust and relationships with our communities. She leads: Circle of Strength for young women 13-19 , and Panocha Pláticas, conversations on sex, sexuality, and women’s empowerment. Her life’s work has been dedicated to educating and empowering youth to be leaders in their community. Alicia is currently in pursuit of her Masters in Community and Regional Planning at The University of New Mexico. She loves cookies, glitter, dancing, laughing, and exploring.


Victoria Torres, Office Manager

 Victoria Torres is from Los Lunas, New Mexico and the proud mama of three.  As Young Women United’s Office Manager, she provides administrative support to all YWU staff and maintains and manages office systems.  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.


Young Women United Consultants

Raquel Z. Rivera

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.

Micaela Cadena

(Bio coming soon.)

Keioshiah Peter

(Bio coming soon.)

Yahaira Carreras

(Bio coming soon.)