No one knows better than Peace Corps Volunteers that long-held norms and beliefs about gender can constrain female students, women’s cooperative members or female farmers – not to mention wives and mothers – from participating fully in their country’s development. In spite of the fact that women and girls are an important part of development, challenges to realizing gender equality remain 39 years after the United Nations proclaimed International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8, 1975, and which we celebrate this Saturday. Every day Volunteers are inspired by their female community members as they take small steps to get their fair share of education, information and decision-making.
This year’s IWD theme, “Inspiring Change,” connects with many current and returned Volunteers. Today, IWD is recognized as a national holiday in countries from Afghanistan to Zambia, and in the U.S. we remember the struggles of women across the centuries: women working long hours for low wages in crowded factories, women who had little power, little training or education, women who faced constant mistreatment and sexual harassment. These women marched in the streets to demand better conditions, higher salaries and shorter work days, the right to vote and hold public office, to be educated and end discrimination.
Women and girls around the world still seek fairness in a world that remains unequal, and Peace Corps Volunteers’ lives are transformed by working with host country women on the issues that matter most in their lives. Continue reading
I live in a mud hut in sub-Saharan Africa with no electricity or running water. So how do I blog from my site? With a smartphone, solar panels and thumbs destined for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, that’s how.
The first and biggest obstacle to blogging in Zambia is finding electricity. The vast majority of Peace Corps Zambia volunteers live in rural areas with little or no power infrastructure and I’m no exception, so to circumvent this problem I have a Joos Orange portable solar panel and two Greenlight Planet Sunking Pro solar lamps. The solar panels for the lamps are tied to the top of my hut and the cords are threaded through the thatched grass roof, powering the lights, which serve double duty as phone chargers. A full day of sunlight yields enough electricity to charge my phone, headlamp and e-book reader while also supplying me with light throughout the evening. Continue reading
This story is also posted on the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation blog.
During my years working with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), I was lucky enough to witness firsthand the extraordinary work Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) does to help men, women, and children who are living with or affected by HIV. EGPAF provides invaluable support to both facility and community-based programs working to expand access to HIV prevention, care, and treatment services for mothers around the world. Many of their community-based programs rely on strong networks of mothers living with HIV, connecting with other HIV-positive mothers, and helping them to understand and live with HIV. It is a strong statement on the power of the community and what we can achieve when we connect with others.
Now that I am working at the Peace Corps, I see that often in partnership with organizations such as EGPAF, Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) play a special role within the U.S. government working with local communities to accomplish international development work in the hardest-to-reach areas of the globe. Our Volunteers and staff are key partners in international global health initiatives including the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), working through grassroots efforts to contribute to coordinated global campaigns. Continue reading
He once traversed the country accompanying the University of Florida basketball and football teams, but now Charles Kramer is settled in Panama as a Peace Corps Volunteer.
As an undergraduate, Kramer donned a green gator suit and orange jersey to rally fervent football and basketball devotees as the university’s mascot, Albert the Alligator. Away from the stadium stands, Kramer also mentored in the Big Brother program and volunteered through his fraternity.
Now translating skills from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences to a rural setting — a village accessible only by boat — Kramer works with indigenous farmers on water filtration projects and coffee planting. He joins 84 University of Florida undergraduate alumni currently in Peace Corps service. Continue reading
Back in April I received an email requesting creative, humanitarian ideas to improve the everyday lives of Kenyans through technology. Well the Kenyans I hang with on a day-to-day basis are farmers. Not John Deer-ridin’, irrigation-pipe-slingin’ farmers, but plough-pushin’, hand-pickin’ folk. I watch these guys and gals work all year long on their seasonal cash crops of mangoes and oranges, which they then turn around and sell at dirt-cheap prices.
During the harvest season farmers typically get less than 5 cents a mango, which doesn’t necessarily reflect the fair-market value of the crops they work so hard to cultivate. The amount they get for the less exportable orange may be even less. Figuring out how farmers could get the crops’ fair-market value is where “my” idea comes in…
Back in December another PCV told me about a cell phone service that would respond to texted queries about fair market produce prices. Pumped, I texted off several queries of my own but never received a reply. Disappointed, I forgot about the text service until I got the aforementioned email. I asked other PCVs and Kenyans, and not one of them had had any luck with the existing fair-price app. Continue reading
The Tukwatankane Women’s Club that I work with has been working incredibly hard since May to build a fish pond so they can eventually sell the fish in their community. The problem? The women’s club didn’t have money to buy the required 300 fingerlings for the pond. Continue reading
This story is cross-posted on All Africa.
Since July, I have been a Peace Corps Volunteer with the Global Health Service Partnership (GHSP) program, working with Seed Global Health and a busy district hospital in northwestern Tanzania. My husband, David and I moved into a cozy home recently and embraced our new adventure together. It’s been quite an eye-opening experience.
In the months that I’ve been here, I’ve seen medical complications I had only read about materialize in front of me. I’ve gained some valuable life lessons from this corner of east Africa and realize this is only the beginning. Continue reading
Jen likes to say that I rode into town on a white stallion. That white stallion was, of course, a Toyota Land Cruiser that dropped me off in Tecpan, Guatemala, in February 2006. Jen had been in-country for a month already with Peace Corps Response (called Crisis Corps back then), and I was just starting my PCR service.
We were both stationed in Tecpan and assigned to a local NGO that was assisting with recovery efforts after the devastation of Hurricane Stan. Our assignments in Guatemala were for only six months, and neither of us thought in a million years we would meet our future spouse. We joined PCR because we had previously had great work experiences in Peace Corps. As is the case with most Peace Corps service, the host country and PCR gave us so much more than we gave — and they gave us each other. Continue reading
There’s a women’s club in my village – the Tukwatankane Women’s Club – that I’ve been working with for a few months now. The club consists of some of the most physically imposing, strong willed and joyous women I’ve ever met. Tukwatankane means, “we’re united” in the local language, a fitting title for a group that formed to improve women’s lives – and livelihoods – through collaborative work opportunities.
At first I didn’t work with the group very much because they wanted me to help them to make fried pastries, a skill I knew a previous Volunteer had already taught them. But six months later they came to me and said they had a new idea: They wanted to build a fish pond. They had seen the production of my friend Mr. Nshimbi’s fish pond (the first and, until then, the only in the area) and wanted to build their own.
So I responded, “Absolutely. We start tomorrow.” Continue reading
Ever wonder what your house might be like as a PCV? Visit with David Berger at his home in Zambia.