Marianne Møllmann

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission

Marianne Møllmann is Director of Programs at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in New York City. Ms. Møllmann previously was a senior policy advisor with Amnesty International’s International Secretariat in London where she focused on freedom of expression and sexual rights issues, and a women’s rights researcher and advocate with Human Rights Watch in New York. Ms. Møllmann specializes in sexual rights, reproductive rights, women in conflict, economic rights, and anti-discrimination.

A Convincing Argument

Marianne Mollmann is Advocacy Director for the Women's Rights Division of Human Rights Watch.

I am now in Los Angeles, on the last leg of my road-trip through the United States and Canada with Verónica Cruz, founder and director of the Mexican grassroots advocacy group, Las Libres (The Free Women). Las Libres works for access to safe and legal abortion in the conservative Mexican state of Guanajuato, so it is not surprising that social change - how to create and sustain it - is high on Verónica's agenda.

What might be surprising is that her reflections are universally applicable. Also to the groups that try to generate this change.

"You can't ever afford to get complacent with your work," Verónica told me Tuesday as we left a meeting with community based women's organizations in East Los Angeles. "We must all evaluate the impact our work has on creating durable social change - that's the key factor for doing things right."

In fact, setting priorities and planning for real change has been our main conversation topic throughout the week, from the panel discussion with Verónica and Dolores Huerta (the legendary founder of United Farm Workers) at the Feminist Majority's offices, over our visit to a model Rape Crisis Center in Santa Monica, to our lunch-time strategy session with latina and chicana women in East Los Angeles.

And we have come to a few conclusions.

Plus ça change…

Marianne Mollmann is Advocacy Director for the Women's Rights Division of Human Rights Watch.

In French they have a saying: "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose." (It means something like: "The more things change, the more it's all the same.")

This is the feeling I have as I travel with Verónica Cruz - my Mexican colleague who helps rape victims get access to legal abortion - from New York over Washington D.C., Ottawa and Toronto to Chicago. Women everywhere - and in particular poor, uneducated, young, or non-white women - are ignored and abused. The justice and health service providers charged with helping them, instead insult and mistreat them.

Justice Is Possible

Marianne Mollmann is Advocacy Director for the Women's Rights Division of Human Rights Watch.


It's easy to get discouraged if you support women's right to decide over their bodies and choices, what with the blanket ban on abortion in Nicaragua passed last week, the imposition of demonstrably harmful "abstinence-only" sexual education in the United States and elsewhere, and the lack of access to comprehensive reproductive and sexual health care for women generally. But this month I am getting a much-needed injection of "it's possible."

I am not talking about the U.S. elections, though some electoral campaigns have given me hope that not all politicians have sold out to focus group research.

I am talking about Verónica Cruz.

Verónica Cruz is the co-founder and leader of the organization "Las Libres" (The Free Women) in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato. She is also one of only three recipients of this year's Human Rights Watch annual award for exceptional human rights activists. Part of the prize is a three-week speaking tour of the United States and Canada, where I, as her Human Rights Watch host, get to accompany her. Our trip only started Monday, but I am already energized by her enthusiasm and inherent belief that justice is possible. Even for women. Even for poor women. Even for poor, indigenous, illiterate women.