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Beneficiaries participate in the building of new houses in the Integrated Rural Village of Nkurye, Burundi. Thanks to the ‘3x6 approach’ and the support of UN Volunteers, vulnerable and excluded women and men can train in masonry. (Aude Rossignol/UNV, 2012)

UNV in action: Volunteerism and Gender

“Through volunteerism, women are challenging their traditional place in society.”

Volunteerism can empower women and girls. It can provide them with opportunities to use their expertise to serve their communities. Through volunteerism, women can learn and practice new skills, take on new roles (for example, as leaders and managers), and demonstrate new possibilities for the way they participate in their communities.

Women and girl volunteers can play a significant role in improving the status of women through their active participation in the decision-making processes of their communities. One example is the joint UNIFEM-UNV project Gender Budgeting and Volunteering through Civic Engagement: a Contribution to Democratic Governance and Gender Equality in Latin America.

Volunteerism enables women and girls to:

Women were encouraged to volunteer by taking part in the participatory planning processes of their local governments such as open assemblies, councils and committees, where development action plans were being drafted. The main objective was to achieve broad recognition of the breadth of women’s engagement with local government through their voluntary participation in different regional processes. Thus, decision makers would gain a greater appreciation of the value of their voluntary contributions.

Successfully assume positions of responsibility Access domains usually reserved for men Act as role models and inspire others Demonstrate their capabilities and skills as managers and leaders The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme is committed to ensuring that volunteering opportunities are equally accessible and open to both women and men. In our Strategic Framework 2014-2017, we will focus on ensuring commitment to gender equality, recognizing the role of women as a driving force for peace and development efforts, and societal transformation across all areas of programme delivery.

State of the World’s Volunteerism Report, 2011

The project resulted in individual and collective empowerment for women in Latin America. Women evolved from having a self-perception as beneficiaries or members of a vulnerable group to seeing themselves as social actors who are able to engage with others to make demands of central government and local authorities.


National UN Volunteer Martha Guerrero Jiménez conducts an exercise with leaders of women’s organizations during a workshop facilitated by UN Volunteers in the Municipality of Orellana, Ecuador. The women gathered to discuss Annula Operative Plan 2012 that will coordinate their actions to promote gendre budgeting. (Maria de los Angeles Manzano, 2011)

“I really cannot accept that in my country women are so passive against this problem. In the Burundian culture we say: Diplome yumukobwa, n’ umugabo wiwe” [The diploma of a girl is her husband]. I think that every Burundian girl should complete her studies, in order not to depend on other people, and in order to be able to take care of themselves. Women have talents, competences and they all gain from achieving their autonomy.” Ms. Nadege Yengayenge, national UN Volunteer serving in Burundi within the project “Women Economic Empowerment and Reintegration in Burundi.”

Internal resources UNV recognizes that women’s rights are human rights. UNV engages in research on gender and volunteerism. Gender mainstreaming is a priority for all aspects of UNV programming (Programme Strategy 2011-2013). The UNV Gender Action Plan is constantly updated in order to guide the peace and sustainable development interventions of UNV and UN Volunteers. The UNV Gender Action Team provides substantive gender-related inputs and cross-sectoral support to all UNV units, as well as to corporate policies and initiatives related to programming, volunteer management, human resources management, knowledge, learning and result setting, and reporting, among others. Gender mainstreaming is a topic covered in induction training sessions (for UN Volunteers, interns and staff in the field and at HQ). The gender dimension is a very important part of the UNV Communications Strategy. Gender is systematically streamlined in the whole cycle of UNV’s programmes through systematic reviews of project documents at the design stage; consideration of gender perspectives in reporting system tools; evaluation of gender-related outputs and outcomes of projects and programmes.

UNV’s commitment to gender As part of its commitment to gender, UNV Actively participates in the UN System-Wide Action Plan (SWAP) on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. Is involved in online discussions featuring contributions of volunteerism to empowerment of women (for example, on the contribution of volunteerism against discrimination of women in practice in public and political life; online discussion on women in peace prevention and peace-building; UNV programme inputs on the role of women in natural resource management and peace-building). Promotes dialogue on inequalities faced by girls and young women through moderation of the online discussion on “inequalities faced by young people, focusing on inequalities faced by girls” (1-18 January 2013). Provides inputs for reports and publications on gender and volunteerism. Fights violence against women through its development interventions, but also raises awareness among UNV staff and UN Volunteers. For example, in collaboration with the Gender Focal Point of the City of Bonn, Germany, UNV produced Guidelines on Counselling Centres for Domestic and Sexual Violence that are available in Bonn and providing services in several languages, and distributed these among UN staff.


Gender mainstreaming Volunteers address gender issues and mainstream

gender directly and indirectly:

Directly, UN Volunteers serve as UNV Gender Officers, UNV Human Rights Advisors, UNV Protection Officers, UNV Training Specialists etc. Indirectly, by appplying gender equity perspectives in assignments with diverse host agencies, as well as in peacekeeping and political missions, UN Volunteers provide expertise on gender issues in projects related to humanitarian assistance, crises prevention, food security, democratic governance.

Gender balance among UN Volunteers UNV is committed to promoting and reaching gender balance among its staff and UN Volunteers. For every recruitment process, UNV ensures that at least one out of three candidates is a qualified female, and the final selection is made by the hosting entity. The ratio among the 6,807 UN Volunteers serving in 2012 was 61% male, 39% female. This can be attributed to several different factors, including hardship/non-family duty stations and UN Volunteer profiles with technical requirements (e.g. satellite/ communications, movement control, demobilization and disarmament programmes etc). In 2012, over 11,000 UN Online Volunteers undertook around 16,000 assignments, advancing development through UNV’s Online Volunteering Service. Of these, 59% were women.

In Guinea, UNV supported LONNI Guinée, a local women’s association that took the lead in launching awareness-raising and reforestation campaigns to save the Kakimbo Forest. The Kakimbo Forest faces a great risk of complete deforestation and degradation. The LONNI Guinée Association comprises 50 women whose main activity is small-scale farming in the areas surrounding the forest. Their income and livelihood primarily depends on the forest’s existence. These women realized that their farming activities were not sustainable in the absence of a community-owned system for the management of the forest and available natural resources. UNV supported this initiative by mobilizing a wide range of actors including civil society, government, the private sector and UN entities. As a result, 300 community members, along with the Scouts movement, youth volunteer associations, the Sekou Toure Club, UNDP, the Minister of Energy and Environment, the Société des Eaux de Guinée, and the private sector took part. Government ministries supported the launch of a tree nursery programme (which planted 1,100 saplings) and supported a campaign to sensitize the population living on the outskirts of the Kakimbo Forest to the importance of establishing a sustainable management system for the forest and natural resources. Building on these experiences, UNV is currently designing a joint project proposal with local partners that aims to scale-up and replicate these good practices led by the women’s association and youth volunteer groups.

In Guinea, a volunteer from the LONNI Women’s Association participates in a reforestation campaign to save the Kakimbo Forest. (UNV Guinea, 2011)


Peaceful demonstration against gender based violence in Bundarana Simpang Lima, Banda Aceh, Indonesia. ‘Real men do not commit violence’ can be read on the poster. (Marwan Idris/UNV, 2011)

Participants in the national consultation on youth volunteering in Morocco. (Laboratoire Brahim/UNV, 2012)

“Volunteering can empower women victims of sexual violence to be more dynamic and productive, and to promote themselves in their society and domestic life... As UN Volunteers, we are the spokespersons of the United Nations and we implement the ethics of the United Nations through our actions and our work.” UNV Poverty Programme Coordinator in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Adele Libam (Cameroon)

One of the challenges in addressing structural factors and causes of gender-based violence (GBV) are found in the traditional ‘victim role’ given to women and the related ‘perpetrator role’ given to men. It is therefore essential to develop initiatives that move away from these perceptions and actively engage men and boys in efforts to eradicate GBV, as a part of the wider process of encouraging gender equality. This is also a means to promote the prevention of violence. Ending gender-based violence against women and girls is the objective of the Partners for Prevention project in 12 countries of the Asia-Pacific region. Implemented from 2008-2013 through a joint partnership of UNV, UNDP, UNFPA and UN Women, working together with governments, civil society organizations and volunteer-involving organizations, the project works to prevent gender-based violence by addressing its root causes and stopping violence before it starts. UN Volunteers serving in Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and Viet Nam worked with local partners to reach out to communities and mobilize community volunteers to foster attitudinal and behavioural change among boys and men.

With their knowledge of the local context, language, culture and challenges, national UN Volunteers also consolidate research, document volunteering contributions and commission new studies to strengthen evidence-based policy advocacy. Following the success of this project, UNV is currently engaged with project partners in developing a second phase. Projects involving men as sensitizers and health practitioners against GBV have also been implemented in Burkina Faso. In the project Male Volunteers for Gender and Health, male volunteers are actively involved in fighting gender-based violence - including harmful traditional practices such as FGM and forced early marriages. The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme is the UN organization that promotes volunteerism to support peace and development worldwide. Volunteerism can transform the pace and nature of development and it benefits both society at large and the individual volunteer. UNV contributes to peace and development by advocating for volunteerism globally, encouraging partners to integrate volunteerism into development programming, and mobilizing volunteers. UNV is administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

For more information about UNV, please visit www.unv.org

UNV (November 2013)

Countering gender-based violence


UNV in action: Volunteerism and Gender