Mujeres Unidas y Activas
“I love this program because it didn’t just help me. It helped my daughters (and) my family… now, I have a job, a home, and my daughters are in a healthy environment.”
These are the words of Ana Hernandez, a Latina immigrant from Mexico and a survivor of domestic violence. She and her daughters have been able to rebuild their lives thanks to the culturally responsive and community-focused efforts led by Foundation grantee Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA) in San Francisco.
For organizations like MUA that are working to address and prevent domestic violence, one of the most fundamental aspects of helping those in need is also one of the most challenging: how to educate survivors about available services and connect them to the local support systems that can help them succeed. MUA is overcoming this challenge by going beyond traditional shelter services to build an empowered network of survivors in the Latina community and create programs that reach more women and families, help foster personal connections, and provide opportunities that help survivors find a new path forward.
“Most people come looking for support or because somebody told them about a group,” says Juana Flores, Co-Director of MUA. “MUA doesn’t present itself as a domestic violence organization, because if a woman doesn’t identify her situation as domestic violence or is ashamed, she is not going to come to the organization because she’s going to feel bad.”
Ana Hernandez, whose story is featured in the video below, was two months pregnant and caring for an eighteen-month-old daughter when she realized that she was in an unsafe relationship and needed support to leave her abusive partner. Ms. Hernandez first came to MUA for an English class. During one of the classes, the issue of DV came up.
“We were talking in English about domestic violence, and what they were describing was what I was experiencing,” says Ms. Hernandez. “At first I didn’t say anything. Listening to the other women, I felt like I belonged. I felt like I could trust them, and I wasn’t alone.”
Once she experienced that sense of belonging and safety, Ms. Hernandez felt comfortable enough to seek out and utilize the DV services offered by MUA, which she credits with helping her make positive changes in her life.
MUA’s two-pronged mission is to promote personal transformation and build community strength to achieve social and economic justice. For women like Ana Hernandez, that sense of community can mean everything.
Now she says, “I feel good and proud of myself. And I’m especially proud of helping out my community, which is really rewarding.”
To learn more about MUA and hear Ms. Hernandez’s story in her own words, view the video below.