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Cambridge, MA—The Center for Public Leadership (CPL) at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) has named human rights activist Teresa Ulloa Ziáurriz this year’s recipient of the Gleitsman International Activist Award for her 40 years of work fighting human trafficking and violence against women. The award and $125,000 prize, bestowed biennially to a leader who has “improved the quality of life in countries and inspired others to do the same,” will be presented to Ulloa at a ceremony in Cambridge on Tuesday, November 1st.
A lawyer by training, Ulloa has litigated more than 30,000 rape cases in her career. As regional director of the Coalition Against Trafficking Women’s (CATW) Latin American and Caribbean division, Ulloa created the Red Alert System in Mexico in 2006. Coordinating the work of government agencies, prosecutors’ offices and police departments, this system has been responsible for rescuing nearly 700 women and children from the snares of sex traffickers.
Before joining CATW, Ulloa founded two legal collectives, Compañera and Defensoras Populares, A.C.; as the general coordinator of this second group, Ulloa helped exonerate 150 Mexican women who were unjustly accused of crimes. But her efforts have not been confined to the legal system: Ulloa also developed a training program designed to reduce the demand for commercial sex that targets young males. The first of its kind, this program promotes an alternative conception of male sexuality based on gender equality; nine countries throughout Central and South America have adopted the model.
“I am honored to be chosen for such a prestigious award,” said Ulloa. “Most important, I hope that this award shines a light on the countless women of Central and South America who find themselves trapped in detestable situations. Our work may never end, but for my daughter’s sake—and the sake of all daughters, wives, and mothers everywhere—I will continue this fight and remain grateful for this wonderful recognition.”
Casey Otis-Cote, associate director of CPL’s Gleitsman Program in Leadership for Social Change, added: “For decades Teresa Ulloa Ziáurriz has been the tireless voice and advocate that women throughout Central and South America have relied on. Her diversified approach to women’s rights—using legal, political, and educational means—exemplifies the leaders of social change that this award was intended to honor.”