Volunteering abroad in women’s rights is rewarding and important work. If you are passionate about gender equality and want to learn more about the realities of the issue around the world, women’s right volunteer work is a great choice for you. While some of the issues facing women in developing countries are incredibly daunting, international volunteers can still make an impact through community development, education, outreach, and individual support. Expect to be challenged, surprised, and moved by the conversations you have with the women you meet and come home with an entirely new perspective.
Why Volunteer Abroad
Women’s rights is an excellent area for volunteering abroad because many different majors and areas of expertise can all work together toward a common goal of women’s empowerment. Supporting women and girls in developing countries is vital volunteer work - research has shown that communities with strong female leaders are more successful than ones who do not value equality. You may live in a country that has issues with sexism but does not struggle with the intense challenges facing women in developing nations - some of these challenges are prioritizing male births, girls being blocked from going to school, women not being considered for jobs, and even mutilating and killing girls. As you can see, these issues are complex and layered and require people of diverse backgrounds to work together - both men and women - to help begin to solve these issues.
Whether you are interested in politics, business, history, science, technology, medicine, education, and the list goes on, there is probably something you can contribute to when it comes to the global fight for gender equality. Volunteering in women’s rights can allow you to build relationships with local women who have amazing stories and experiences, and probably more in common with you than you think. By working towards specific goals, you can build genuine connections and begin to see the world from a new perspective.
Major regions for volunteering in women’s rights include Latin America, Asia, and Africa. This is not to say that there are not volunteer opportunities to work with women in other parts of the world, but these regions tend to be the most common locations for volunteer programs that focus on work with women.
Latin America is an excellent place to volunteer in women’s rights. There are placements in Latin America volunteering with women in both urban and rural areas. Central and South America are excellent places to find volunteering projects with a focus on entrepreneurship, microfinance, and agriculture. Typical volunteer placements include working at a women’s shelter in a city, helping on a farm or plantation, or volunteering to teach a specific skill, such as using a computer. Latin America is an interesting region when it comes to gender issues - Chile had a female president a few years ago, but machismo still has a strong influence on many families and relationships.
Asia is another great option for learning about issues that face women abroad as well as getting a feel for legal regulations and providing necessary empowerment. This region is a good choice for volunteers who are interested in the politics and governmental decisions that can impact the lives of women. Asia is an interesting destination to focus on women’s rights because some countries limit the amount of children couples can have, which can mean male life is sometimes valued over female life. A cultural and traditional emphasis on honor can mean that issues like domestic violence or gender inequality are not brought up by women.
Africa offers many meaningful opportunities to volunteer in women’s rights, especially if you are interested in health and sex education outreach. Many nations in Africa have made female leadership a priority in recent years and there have been exciting developments. However, there is still much work to be done. The political instability in some nations contributes to larger issues of violence and danger for women that can be as extreme as murders and kidnappings. Girls can be married off to older men because their families do not have enough money, and in many areas families choose to only send only boys to school, which makes it challenging for the next generation of women to be educated and empowered.
Types of Programs
Similar to other volunteer work abroad, opportunities to volunteer in women’s rights can be as short as one week, but the longer you are able to stay the greater your impact on the community and the project. Usually volunteers do not need any specific skills, unless you are hoping to teach a class focused on a specific skill, in which case you should have basic experience. Most volunteer opportunities working with women are broken up into three main categories:
Public Health Outreach is extremely important and life-changing volunteer work, especially in rural and less-visited areas of the developing world. Mothers risk death when birthing their children due to a lack of access to healthcare and doctors. Young women and girls are sometimes not educated about HIV/AIDS and other sexual transmitted infections or general sex education. Medical and dental support is needed in many parts of the developing world, however, if you aren’t a practicing doctor or dentist you should be aware that you will be limited in your ability to assist in these areas. Education and outreach is an excellent way to lend support without overstepping boundaries or stretching your professional capabilities.
Business Skills are more and more in demand as women around the world begin to start their own companies, sometimes through the help of micro-lending. Your expertise in areas such as marketing, accounting, grant-writing, and even basic computer skills can help these women be more competitive and better businesspeople. You might write a marketing plan, analyze if there are ways they can be more efficient or sustainable, or lead a computer class.
Education is an important and popular area for volunteering with women. If you are interested in working with children or teens this is an excellent area too. Specific education volunteer placements working with women might include teaching English, tutoring, constructing a school, leading teacher trainings, holding reading or writing workshops, or working on policy changes to allow more girls to go to school. Since many families can only afford to send one child to school, most pick boys since they feel they will have more opportunities to further their education and obtain good jobs or careers. By helping increase literacy, knowledge, and skills of local women, you’ll bring them one step closer to independence and equality. Your presence as a positive role model can give the girls an example of an educated and confident woman too.
Volunteering with women will give you an idea of life in a developing country as well as what females in other parts of the world encounter each day. You can make a direct impact on a community through sharing your skills and knowledge, and will also learn from the women you meet.
The connections and relationships you build through your time volunteering abroad may lead to future career opportunities, including working with an NGO or other women-focused organization, sponsoring an international girl to go to school, and contributing towards microfinance campaigns.
Supporting women’s rights abroad through volunteer work may lead you to a new and important passion.