MHR Student Monitors Forced Disappearances in Mexico
Yolanda Burckhardt (MHR '21) is a second-year Master of Human Rights Student with a concentration in Gender and Racial Justice. Over the summer, Yolanda worked with Professor Barb Frey on the Observatory on Disappearances and Impunity in Mexico. To read about her work and the experiences she had, read our interview with Yolanda below.
Human Rights Program (HRP): Please describe your summer internship or project and the work that you did during this time.
Yolanda Burckhardt (YB): This summer, I have been working with Professor Barb Frey on the Observatory on Disappearances and Impunity in Mexico. Since 2015, a team of students, staff, and professors have been monitoring and documenting press articles on forced disappearances in Mexico. My role has been primarily to run data analysis on the raw data collected. From the descriptive analysis, we are able to make some observations as to how the press reports on victims, perpetrators, and the disappearances themselves. Given that there isn't reliable government data on the number of forced disappearances in Mexico, the press has played a significant role in creating collective awareness around the stories of victims, families, and communities. Our summer team has been working to publish a website for the Observatory so it can be a resource to NGOs and researchers and a home for the project’s findings.
HRP: What made you choose this internship specifically? How does the work you were doing this summer relate to your area of study at UMN?
YB: My family is from the Northern part of Mexico where there have been high incidences of human rights violations due to drug trafficking and state violence. This work has allowed me to learn more about the history and politics of the human rights crisis in Mexico and allowed me to apply the skills I've learned in HRP to an issue I care deeply about.
HRP: What skills or personal growth have you gained through doing this work? Are there any other reflections you want to share about this experience?
YB: Working on this project has given me the opportunity to apply and practice my data analysis skills. Through this projects have also been made to think about how information can be presented to the public in a meaningful and useful way. I think it is critically important that we deliver our academic work in ways that are accessible to organizations and community groups that are working on the grassroots level. The international collaboration in which the Observatory is involved has also opened my eyes to the importance of cross-sector and international partnerships, especially in issues concerning human rights.