During Women’s History Month and throughout the year, thousands of Peace Corps Volunteers are working in communities around the world to increase opportunities for women and girls.
Peace Corps Volunteers know that women and girls in developing countries play a critical role in the well-being of their families and communities. That’s why a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines worked with women in her community on a small business venture to sell colorful handbags crocheted from discarded plastic bags, and why Volunteers in Moldova are working with a local domestic violence shelter to improve the shelter’s direct services and provide training on domestic violence interventions and prevention strategies.
Peace Corps is unique in that Volunteers work at the grassroots level to identify gender barriers in individual communities. In Kenya, Volunteers have been working to end the practice of trading sex for fish, which has perpetuated the spread of HIV/AIDS among communities along Lake Victoria and forces women to become financially dependent on men. Since 2011, three Volunteers have helped local women find financial independence by working with Kenyan businesses and U.S. federal government partners to acquire boats for women involved in the fish trade and support the development of their own fishing business.
One of the agency’s most successful and widespread gender-based initiatives is Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World). Camp GLOW was first established in 1995 by a group of Peace Corps Volunteers in Romania to promote gender equality and empower young women by creating a safe and supportive environment for cultural exchange, individuality, creativity, leadership development and fun. Since that time, Volunteers in 60 countries have established GLOW camps to promote the empowerment of women. In recent years, Volunteers have started to incorporate men and boys in GLOW camps to bring attention to the role that males play in gender equality. For example, Volunteers in Senegal invite fathers to attend Camp GLOW with their daughters so the males can see their daughters as individuals with dreams, goals and ambitions.
We have worked hard to integrate gender equity programming across sectors in the countries where Peace Corps Volunteers live and work. More than a thousand Volunteers in our education sector received training that gives them the skills to work with in-country counterpart teachers to introduce more gender equitable practices into the classroom routine and create safe spaces for all children to learn. In addition, over one hundred host country national staff in Africa and Asia received training on gender equitable teaching practices and addressing gender based violence at the community level. In addition, every Peace Corps trainee at every post worldwide receives one hour of gender training as part of pre-service training.
Peace Corps Volunteers are making a difference in the lives of women and girls while supporting gender equality in communities around the world.
From our Peace Corps family to yours, happy Women’s History Month!
Carrie Hessler-Radelet is the Acting Director of Peace Corps.