Mothers defend families from violence and virus  

The Defenders of the Family represent an anti-violence coalition of more than 250 mothers of sponsored children in Lima, Peru.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, three of every five women in Lima, Peru, reported that they had experienced violence from an intimate partner. For Sonia and the other women in her community near Lima, that number was more than a chilling statistic — it was a lived reality.

Their experiences with domestic violence and the isolation they felt in seeking help and justice led them to create the “Defensoría de la Familia,” or the “Defenders of the Family.” Now, the coalition made up of 250 mothers representing dozens of neighborhoods across Peru’s capital is finding out that their years of organizing has prepared them for challenges they never could have expected.

“It’s been years of marches, talks, workshops and personalized visits,” Sonia said. “Sometimes we wondered if we were doing well, if the mothers listened to us, or if what we were doing was worth it. Now, I realize it was and I am proud of the outcomes.”

A mother to two sponsored children, Sonia got involved with the Defenders through her participation in an Unbound mothers group.

Since 2012, the Defenders have received regular trainings from local domestic violence prevention organizations, staffed with experts including lawyers and psychologists. The women then replicated the workshops in their Unbound mothers groups. Now, while new reports from the United Nations are finding that women around the world are experiencing increased rates of domestic violence during the pandemic, Sonia’s group, which works with more than 5,000 mothers in Lima, says they have not seen the same increases. Sonia believes the Defensoria had considerable influence over the lower reported incidents.

More than 250 mothers currently serve as Defenders throughout Lima neighborhoods where poverty and violence are high. Almost all of them report having experienced domestic violence firsthand.

When it comes to protecting women from domestic violence, no one understands better, no one fights harder, than a mother who has faced it herself.


Sonia got involved with the Defenders through her participation in a mothers support group for women with children sponsored through Unbound. Two of Sonia’s daughters are sponsored through the program. According to Velazquez, Unbound’s mothers groups in Lima found that their networks were a ready conduit for pandemic response as well, allowing the mothers to move quickly to find and distribute resources where they were needed most. The Defenders have also continued their trainings during COVID-19 through virtual meetings with the other mothers in their groups.

“In each solidarity group, there is a person in charge of the Defensoría at this time of lockdown,” Sonia said. “And since everything is virtual, women can still communicate with us to support them and guide them to make their complaints.”

In the past decade, Unbound has sent more than $1 billion to support children, families and elderly people living in extreme poverty around the world, and has organized more than 10,000 neighborhood groups, each made up of mothers of sponsored children in its programs. Promoting local leadership among mothers allows Unbound to deploy resources as effectively as possible to the most important challenges facing each community.

How you can help in the pandemic

Your gift to the Disaster Response fund helps families most affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Cash transfers are made to the individual bank accounts where families receive their Unbound benefits. This gives families the most flexibility to address urgent needs while doing their part to stay healthy and keep their communities safe.