Enriqueta Estela Barnes de Carlotto was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1930. She was a teacher and the Director of the Colonel Branden National School and President of the Argentinean National School Assessment Board (Junta de Calificación de Escuelas Nacionales). In 1978 Barnes joined the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo to search for her daughter Laura Estela, who disappeared in November 1977, and her granddaughter, who was born in captivity in June 1978. In 1978 she became Vice-President of the association, and today she is President.
She has received honorary doctorates from various Argentinean universities and from the University of Massachussets. The Danielle Mitterand Foundation, "France Libertés", acknowledged her as a "Woman of Struggle" in 1989, the bicentenary of the French Revolution. The following year the French government awarded her the Légion d'honneur. Barnes de Carlotto is also President of the Argentinean Committee for Monitoring and Applying the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.