Defender Network
Regional Convening


⬇ Continue scrolling to learn more ⬇


In January 2019, Justice in Motion brought the Defender Network together in Panajachel, Guatemala for the second-ever Defender Regional Convening. Over 60 participants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and the United States attended the three-day event.

Justice in Motion trains and coordinates a network of 44 human rights organizations across Mexico and Central America so that they can better serve migrants in their communities.


exploring our methodology

The event marked the next step in the evolution of the Defender Network towards a model of shared leadership. Through a carefully designed methodology, we worked to build trust and promote greater coordination among network members to amplify our collective impact across the region. The Core Team, a group of Defenders who volunteered to craft new guiding documents and procedures for the network, presented the work of its committees to the network as a whole for approval. Together, we implemented a new agile decision-making process and reached a deeper shared understanding of the network evolution process.


making complex collaborations work

To generate immediate value from the network space, Defenders shared possible “micro-collaborations” – small-scale requests for assistance from other network members. For instance, one network member working with traumatized migrant clients asked if other Defenders could suggest possible partners who could offer psychological support. Another asked if Defenders could review and comment on a report for submission to the United Nations.

Defenders also formed 5 new project teams to develop longer term initiatives within the new network structure. These projects included a potential advocacy team to respond to shifting policies throughout Mexico and Central America, a task force to assess how to better safeguard the security of human rights defenders, and a pre-departure rights education project for migrant communities.


family reunification

Justice in Motion was in a unique position to respond to the family separation crisis in 2018, thanks to our cross-border model and wide-ranging connections with lawyers and nongovernmental organizations in Mexico and Central America. The Defenders who played a pivotal role in finding and reunifying the parents deported without their children shared stories and reflections on their experiences. These moving presentations helped everyone present to understand the power of the network’s mobilization and the emotional impact the crisis had on everyone it touched.


Practicing Self-care

Defenders of the Red de Mujeres del Bajío, in Guanajuato, Mexico, guided their fellow network members through an interactive self-care workshop. Participants had the opportunity to talk candidly about the emotional impact of frontline human rights work, as well as to practice different techniques for relieving stress and finding connection and solidarity with other Defenders.


From Our Participants:

It’s important to work from a network approach because we can’t solve all of these issues ourselves. Migrants cross borders, so we must look at this with allies in different countries. . . . [B]y connecting human rights organizations in different countries[,] we ensure that wherever migrants go, their rights are protected.
— Cathleen Caron, Executive Director
Why is a network like this important? Because it’s necessary to pursue justice even when people are sent back to their countries of origin. . . . The fact that they’re no longer in a particular country shouldn’t be an obstacle for them in pursuing that justice, or that compensation, or that remedy.
— Rebeca Sánchez Ralda, Defender
A network like this is very important because it gives all the countries involved — Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States — a meeting point. Many times, the political and economic situation we’re living in makes it essential for us to seek out new opportunities. This network gives us an opportunity to come together and to collaborate, so that the services that we offer can be truly beneficial for the migrants who need them.
— Lesly Tayes, Defender
This network is important because it is a space where different efforts can converge. We can draw on the strength and unity that the network generates to arrive at solutions and new perspectives to problems that migrants face.
— Gabriel Zelada Ortiz, Defender