Around the world, nations have made significant progress in the quest toward equal opportunity among men and women. Many countries have acted as models in societal change, however there isn’t a country to date that has perfected the “equality for all” mantra. Those who choose to volunteer their time to confront gender issues will work as advocates for marginalized women worldwide, developing programs to educate and empower. Each continent is faced with varying gender crises, and each one has its own unique need for volunteers to help drive gender rights initiatives and programs.
Why Volunteer Abroad
Gender inequality is has been around for generations, in every culture across the globe. While progress has been made over the years, inequality tends to manifest itself in new ways, creating the need for further advocacy and societal change. Although gender injustice tends to primarily affect women, the issues faced by men and children should not be forgotten either. Poverty, violence, and illiteracy are just a few of the continual worldwide struggles that make gender issues even more complicated and in need of attention.
Volunteers can give their time to educate and empower marginalized groups (namely women) and ultimately combat gender inequality across the world. While there is a great deal of need among individuals experiencing specific unequal treatment, there is a greater need to challenge and encourage the world at large to implement the necessary changes. Change can not be made through passivity; it is passion, dedication, and service that can create the ripple effect needed to solve gender issues abroad.
Though gender inequality is an issue faced by women worldwide in developed and developing nations alike, most volunteer programs focus on rural areas of developing nations. Volunteers will likely be placed in smaller, less affluent communities deeply rooted in tradition where women are struggling against rigid gender roles.
Thailand. Women in Thailand are known for far more than their beauty, kind hearts, and hospitality. In this southeast Asian nation, women have a great deal of opportunity available, but only if they are from a developed city. Within established communities, opportunities ranging from healthcare to education are widely available to native women. Women are seen as an asset to the community and greatly admired even. However, those from smaller villages are not given this same equal opportunities. Villagers are seen as inferior and disgraceful, yet responsible for responding to the very present needs of their families, no matter the cost. There is a large gap between men and women, both socially, culturally, and economically, and there is a great deal of need for volunteers to advocate for and empower women in these communities.
Fiji. The breathtaking island of Fiji attracts foreigners as a result of its natural beauty and waterfront attractions. However, gender issues in Fiji are often overlooked. Previously in Fijian society, women were known as the “pillar of strength” within the family unit. As time has passed, women have been compelled to enter the workplace. There are surely benefits of this, however it’s the mother’s role to hold the family together in Fijian culture. With the drastic increase in a mother’s time out of the home, the family structure has weakened significantly. There is no question that women are still subservient to men in Fiji, even in the midst of progress. Since traditional gender roles place women in the home, and not the workplace, there is cultural discord over the economic empowerment of women joining the workforce. Therefore, great need remains for all within Fiji.
Nepal. This Asian nation is surrounded by mountains, waterfalls, and unending natural beauty. However, women in Nepal often feel hopeless and trapped in rigid gender roles. Based on the cultural norm that women aren't allowed to receive full educational opportunities, the literacy rate remains low. In addition to being uneducated and illiterate, women commonly fall victim to violence. With this violence comes numerous health concerns, unwanted pregnancy, and often depression. Nepal is also home to a third gender construct, and those who classify themselves as such are part of an ongoing quest to be accepted by society. Third-gender people in Nepal also experience a great deal of violence and discrimination in society. Volunteers have the capability of empowering broken lives and equipping them with skills necessary to excel by volunteering in Nepal.
Programs & Placements
No two volunteer placements under the umbrella of gender issues are alike. Oftentimes, the scope of gender volunteer work revolves around the destination of your project, and most definitely the cultural context of local gender equality issues. Depending on the needs of each individual community, some gender-focused projects may revolve around literacy and education, where others might focus more on healthcare and economic empowerment.
Single Mothers Homes.There are institutions around the world that have been established to help women who have been victims of abuse. These homes are safe havens for women dealing with crises, with or without children, who have often been ostracized by their own families. Most frequently, volunteers will assist with life skill training to prepare women for a successful future.
Women Empowerment Centers. In dozens of nations around the world, women have little to no access to education and public services. Through this type of gender volunteer work, international volunteers can work to promote equality and help conduct alternative income workshops for women. These women empowerment programs typically strive to provide life skill training and improve literacy rates.
Agricultural Initiatives. This opportunity is a remarkable approach to responding to gender issues. In villages and rural international communities, women and children are often invited to live in homes located directly on farm land, in exchange for extending a helping hand with the planting and harvesting of crops. This hands-on approach teaches women very specific livelihood skills needed to support themselves and their children. International volunteers who choose this type of placement will not only gain practical skills for tilling the land, they will garner a deeper look at how incredibly talented (and often underappreciated) local women are. These insights can be incredibly inspiring and motivating to continue fighting the good gender-equality fight.
Benefits & Challenges
Volunteering to alleviate undue injustices in gender inequality will primarily change the way women see themselves in the world. They will no longer view themselves as simply homebodies or child rearers; while important and potentially true, just like you and me, those women are much more than that. And men, in turn, will likewise see their sisters, mothers, daughters, and other female peers in a new light.
This is a sensitive area of volunteer work for many individuals, and it can be a struggle to work alongside communities where gender inequality is so deeply embedded. As you’ll be tackling some level of general gender ideologies, you might not see the fruits of your labor very obviously. Volunteers must trust the process and find solace by tapping into the shared energy and vision between fellow volunteers and locals.
It has been made evident in many nations that the progression of gender issues toward equality is difficult, yet vastly rewarding! While many of these problem areas take decades to resolve, the end results can change the face of a nation. Volunteers who participate in a gender issues volunteer experience will be able to partake in this worldwide mission toward equality and restoration.