Human Rights Watch's Alison Des Forges Award celebrates the valor of individuals who put their lives on the line to protect the dignity and rights of others. Human Rights Watch collaborates with these courageous activists to create a world in which people live free of violence, discrimination, and oppression.
Alina Diaz, farmworker advocate and founding board member of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, works to promote the rights of women farmworkers in the United States. Across the country, hundreds of thousands of immigrant women and girls labor to produce the food we eat. They are highly vulnerable to workplace abuses, including sexual violence and harassment. Diaz has dedicated herself to educating farmworkers about their rights, and has assumed a leading role in empowering them to speak out.
Diaz began working with farmworker women when she was a community outreach educator at Farmworker Legal Services of New York (FLSNY). Marginalized by language barriers, geographic isolation, or lack of legal status, women and girls who work in agricultural fields are often preyed upon by employers or supervisors, who exploit their vulnerability and subject them to verbal harassment, groping, and other sexual assault. Some victims do not know how to report abuse, are ashamed to come forward, or have trouble accessing the legal system. Many cases are never reported because the victims are afraid they will be deported or that employers will retaliate – perhaps by firing them. Drawing on her own experience as an unauthorized immigrant from Colombia who overcame abuse and poverty, Diaz worked at FLSNY to encourage farmworker women to report harassment, rape, and domestic violence and connect them to social legal services.
As a founding board member of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Diaz also tries to get the voices of these women heard at a national level. As the first national farmworker women’s organization in the United States, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas has brought together leading farmworker advocates from around the country to educate lawmakers, officials, and the public about the dangers that farmworker women face.
Human Rights Watch honors Alina Diaz for her dedication to ending egregious abuse against farmworker women in the United States.