2012: Librada Paz, New York
Advocating for the rights of farmworkers
Librada Paz is a Council Member of Western New York for the Rural and Migrant Ministry (RMM) and one of the main heads for RMM's Justice for Farmworkers Campaign (JFW). She has been a tireless leader in New York’s farmworker human rights movement for 20 years.
"I do not have the words to describe how honored I feel to receive this award," said 2012 RFK Human Rights Award laureate Librada Paz. "For years, through late nights and early mornings, RMM and I have organized workers to advocate for change, and this new partnership with the RFK Center will help us have an even greater impact. I'm delighted to be recognized and eager to begin our work together fighting for workers' rights."
At the age of 15, Ms. Paz and her sister migrated to the United States to join their brothers and began working in the fields as soon as she arrived. Her life as a farmworker consisted of sharing living quarters with as many as 16 people and chasing seasonal work around the country. She experienced firsthand the hardships of sub-standard housing, long hours in grueling heat, and the constant moves to follow seasonal crops. Even worse, as a young female farmworker, she suffered physical and sexual abuse by labor contractors and growers who were in positions of power. After enduring the many hardships in agricultural labor for 15 years, she settled in New York and obtained her immigration status. She stopped working in the farms and instead engaged in the struggle as an activist and a voice for farmers.
Currently, Ms. Paz conducts her human rights advocacy with the Rural Migrant Ministry (RMM), an organization founded in 1981 that focuses on rectifying the various injustices that farmworkers face. It is a statewide, non-sectarian organization that seeks rural justice through three programs: accompaniment, education, and youth empowerment. Its mission is to create a just rural New York state by standing with the disenfranchised (especially farm and rural workers), promoting their leadership, and addressing unjust systems and structures.
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2012 RFK Human Rights Award Ceremony
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