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Going Above and Beyond: Volunteers’ Commitment to Global Development

Since 1977, WUSC has worked closely with over 10,000 volunteers in Canada and abroad to foster youth-centered solutions for improved education, economic, and empowerment opportunities to overcome inequality and exclusion in over 15 countries. 

While on assignment, volunteers are responsible for numerous tasks depending on their role, which could vary from creating an entire social strategy that meets the needs of their partner organization, all the way to facilitating training and workshops on fundraising targets. But that’s not all! While on assignment, WUSC volunteers are also asked to engage with the public, both local and Canadian, to spread awareness about the work their organization is doing, its purpose and benefits to the community. 

Gender Considerations in Development 

National volunteer, John, is currently working with Youth Social Advocacy Team (YSAT) in Uganda, as the Monitoring & Evaluation Advisor. John’s principal tasks include supporting the development and implementation of an organizational monitoring and evaluation plan, while also designing tools and systems for data collection to inform policy direction and understanding the performance of the organization. Throughout John’s career, he has organized dissemination events at various levels – parish, sub-county, district, regional, and national – in addition to attending international level dissemination forums such as the United Nations World Data Forum in Dubai of 2018. During his assignment with YSAT, John has engaged with the Ugandan community to put women and girl’s at the centre of development in Uganda’s refugee settlements. 

“Several studies conducted in refugee settlements in Uganda highlight precarious family traditions, customary laws, social norms, religious practices and the unequal value placed upon women historically. These have spiraled into women’s marginalization creating big gaps between men and women’s participation in development programming in refugee settlements.” ~ John 

This reality prompted John to host a meeting at Yoro Base Camp to disseminate the findings of a Peace and Security research study that was conducted in the Terego and Madi-Okollo districts in the West-Nile region of Uganda. The meeting was targeted to 25 district officials, including both male and female participants, however only men had attended his event. This forced John to adapt his pre-planned agenda to include a 20 minute discussion to establish the reasons why the invited women may not have joined and highlighted the benefits of having women at the centre of fostering development programmes. During this discussion, key themes continued to arise, such as the immense roles that women play in caretaking and caregiving within the community which hinders their participation, limitations in collected gender disaggregated data, combatting socio-cultural norms and customs that are rooted in Uganda’s history and more. 

At the end of their discussion, this group came up with key ideas that provided women with more autonomy over themselves and their work, such as improving economic capacities and self-confidence, encouraging stakeholders to include more female voices in decision making at all levels, facilitating and promoting male champions of women inclusion at all levels, encouraging the government at all levels to ensure that women share the right to be free from violence, receive equitable remuneration, and own property, amongst several other ideas. 

John engaging the district officials

Gender and Human Rights Training 

Janani, a South-South volunteer from Uganda now on assignment as the Project Planning and Management Advisor for Kenya Climate Innovation Centre (KCIC), is responsible for developing, implementing and evaluating project proposals and strategies for KCIC. With an academic background in Community Solutions Program and Project Planning & Management and Public Administration, Janani was qualified to conduct trainings for over 50 people to enhance their knowledge on human rights and gender & social inclusion. 

Janani facilitated two trainings, the first focusing on human rights and the second on gender & social inclusion. The human rights training was organized with the aim of having participants conceptualize human rights by definition, identifying how the state of Kenya does or does not meet its obligations to recognize human rights defenders in the country, understanding what decent employment means, and comparing and contrasting these standards with participants’ own employment practices, so they can identify areas of improvement and provide suggestions for their workplaces to meet these standards. The gender & social inclusion training aimed to engage participants by sharing key gender concepts and the socialization of gender norms. Through this training, participants were able to increase their understanding of gender and enhanced their ability to identify gender concerns in their own businesses. Participants have also learned how to run an equity-based enterprise that addresses root causes of gender inequalities, understanding and identifying the dynamics of gender-based violence, and identifying gender and ethical issues that may affect their businesses. 

In these sessions, Janani was able to highlight key concepts about human rights and gender & social inclusion that not only empowered participants to identify inequalities within their communities and places of employment, but also provided them with opportunities to discuss with each other ways to improve their working conditions to be more equitable for all. 

By becoming a volunteer, you gain insight into situations and circumstances that you may have just heard, read about, or watched on the news. Being thrown into a new culture, learning about the local customs and traditions, adapting to a new way of life allows one to broaden their own personal worldview and understand, on a deeper and more personal level, the wants and needs of the community you are working with. By becoming an international volunteer, you will be able to contribute your skills to development and immerse yourself in a new way of life, all the while giving back in a meaningful way. 

If you would like to learn more about how to get involved in global development efforts, or if you’d like to learn more about WUSC’s volunteer opportunities, visit our website https://wusc.ca/volunteer/ 

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