Astrid Escobedo: Working For Human Rights And Justice In Guatemala
Astrid Escobedo is a Guatemalan Lawyer who has worked for almost 19 years in different human rights matters, litigating cases before the Inter-American System of Human Rights. As a pro bono lawyer, she has two judgements from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. She was actively involved in cases against Guatemala’s former President, Vice President, public functionaries, Supreme Court Judges, Congressmen and prominent people from the economic sector.
Escobedo speaks with SheThePeople.TV on her commitment to fighting injustice, why she is on a year-long sabbatical and how she manages to achieve work-life balance.
How would you describe yourself?
I’m a dreamer. Since I was twelve years old I wanted to be a lawyer because I wanted to fight for justice in the world. I´m a very optimistic and persistent woman, committed to fighting injustice and defending human rights.
You are a lawyer and have been passionate about exposing corruption, money laundering, tax evasion, organized crime and illegal drug trafficking. How did you pick your career path?
More than exposing corruption and organized criminal activities, my passion is to fight against human rights violations and injustices which I was called to do at an early age. As a lawyer, I had the opportunity to work for over ten years exposing corruption, money laundering, tax evasion, organized crime and illegal drug trafficking when I worked in the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).
More than exposing corruption and organized criminal activities, my passion is to fight against human rights violations and injustices which I was called to do at an early age.
I never imagined I would get the job as only those NGOs who had contacts in Guatemala had access to such opportunities. But my reputation preceded me and I was invited to apply for the position by a former Colombian colleague at the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights.
You are “fearless” in your current position. Help us walk in your shoes and understand where you get the strength from.
The Commission was shut down by the Guatemalan government in September 2019. Currently, I’m taking a sabbatical year because I am exhausted. I was happy doing my job and it has been my biggest accomplishment. I thought I was fearless until 2019. But in January 2019, I spent over 27 hours at the Guatemalan airport fighting for the rights of my colleague who was denied entry into the country. That was the first time I felt I was putting myself at risk.
What excites you when you wake up every morning?
I wake up every morning excited for new opportunities to contribute towards justice in my country.
Share some examples where you have made a difference in your country and community.
Guatemala has almost 30,000 lawyers but just 15 have had the privilege of working in CICIG and I was one of them, with the longest tenure.
I’m the first independent lawyer to have a judgement from the InterAmerican Court of Human Rights as a pro bono lawyer in Guatemala. With the Florencio Chitay Vs. Guatemala judgement, I demonstrated that any lawyer could litigate human rights violation cases without money power and give confidence to victims that justice is possible.
What are some of the challenges you face? How do you overcome them?
At this point in my life, my big challenges are to find a way to continue working for human rights, fighting impunity and corruption in Guatemala and any other place where I can contribute with my knowledge and my work.
How do you manage self-care?
Managing self-care is not easy as I am very focused on my job. But I do try to have time for myself, to exercise, indulge in my hobbies and share quality time with family and friends.
Do you believe in work-life balance or integration?
I believe in balance, but I think it’s not easy for me as I get totally involved in my job which I am passionate about. I think for me, integration works.
What are some of the strategies you adopt?
I try to have a schedule and I respect it. I allocate time for everything – job, sports, hobbies, family and friends. For me, the only way is to be organized with time.
Do you consider yourself a “Global Girl”? Why?
Yes, because life allows meeting people around the world, people who share with me their knowledge, beliefs and values and this transcends boundaries.
What is the advice you would give your 16-year-old self?
Learn more languages and try to have a balance in your life.
What are the three values you think are most important for a global leader?
Justice, freedom and respect.
What’s next for Astrid?
Find a way to continue working for human rights and justice in Guatemala and other places.