According to the Human Rights Watch, “Millions of women throughout the world live in conditions of abject deprivation of, and attacks against, their fundamental human rights for no other reason than that they are women.”
Women all over the world are fighting for the protection of their basic human rights. From the extremes of “honor” killings in Pakistan and female genital mutilation in Africa, to a universal lack of educational opportunities and reproductive choices, to worldwide domestic and sexual abuse, there is still a long way to go to reach gender equality.
Luckily, there are many opportunities to get involved with women’s issues on every continent. The most common and best ways international volunteers can contribute to empowering women are related to creating new opportunities and a sense of self-worth by teaching vocational skills, supporting women’s shelters, and giving them access to education and health opportunities, to name a few.
Take some time to educate yourself on gender equality issues and the programs that address women’s rights. Here are five great examples…
United Planet: Women’s Empowerment Volunteer Quests
Description: “Women’s empowerment and vocational training programs offer sustainable solutions, giving women the tools necessary to gain social and economic independence to lift them and their families out of unhealthy circumstances. United Planet’s unique Volunteer Abroad program combines volunteering abroad, language learning, cultural activities, learning excursions, and special Cultural Awareness Projects to provide an incredibly fulfilling experience for volunteers and valuable support for communities in need.”
- Time commitment: Short-term (1-12 weeks) or Long-term (6 months or one year)
- Dates: Short-term Women’s Empowerment Quests are available year-round with two start dates per month. Specific start dates vary by location. Long-term Quests begin in January and August of the year.
- Fees: Short-term fees start at: $945, Long-term fees start at: $5285
- Locations: Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru
Cross-Cultural Solutions: Empowering Women
Description: “Our volunteers work with local community organizations that are striving to help women in a variety of ways, from teaching vocational and language skills to offering micro-credit loans to educating about proper hygiene to providing a safe shelter for abused women and their children and more.”
- Time commitment: 2-12 weeks
- Locations: Ghana, India, Brazil, Morocco, Guatemala, South Africa, Peru, Tanzania
The Cornerstone Foundation: Women in Belize
Description: “Celebrating Women’s Wisdom, Worth & Ways.” You will be working with local women’s groups and government agencies directly. All the work that you do will immediately help local women that really need this assistance. Issues that affect women’s development: financial dependency, inadequate education and vocational skills, size of families, and domestic violence.”
- Time commitment: 1 week up to 3 months
- Fees: Starting at $385, the cost covers all program fees and accommodation (group living) including one midday meal per day.
- Locations: San Ignacio, Belize
GeoVisions: Improving the Lives of Women
Description: “This project began in 1975 in honor of a famous Argentine woman who, during the foundational process of the Argentinean state in the 19th century, fought unfair conditions of women and proposed a free and public education where women could learn the same disciplines and subjects as men. The project regularly organizes workshops and seminars in local schools to promote and raise awareness on gender equality and women’s rights. There are also debates about violence against women in other associations and public places. There are also lectures and teaching women about law, prevention and health issues.”
- Time commitment: 1-3 months
- Fees: $2,435-$3,015
- Locations: Cordoba, Argentina
Institute for Field Research Expeditions: Women’s Development Projects
Description: “IFRE’s Women Empowerment project helps with both formal and informal education (“street smarts”) as well as skills to earn a living by manufacturing crafts, producing various works of art and arranging for their sale.”
- Time commitment: 2-12 weeks
- Dates: First and Third Monday of each month
- Fees: Starting at $648
- Locations: Delhi, Alwar, Jaipur (India); Arusha, Tanzania; Kenya; Costa Rica
Learn more about the need to support women’s empowerment:
- Office of Women’s Global Issues (WGI) in the U.S. Department of State: Promoting women’s social, political, and economic equality around the world.
- Global Issues, Women’s Rights: Articles on global issues highlighting their inter-connectedness.
- Human Rights Watch: Dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world.
Women Watch: Information and resources on gender equality and empowerment of women from the United Nations.
- World Health Organization’s section on Gender, Women and Health: Highlights how gender and gender inequality affect health.
- World Volunteer Web, Gender equality & women’s empowerment: Supported by the United Nations Volunteers program, the World Volunteer Web supports the volunteer community by serving as a global clearinghouse for information and resources linked to volunteerism that can be used for campaigning, advocacy, and networking.
About the Author: Katie Boyer
Katie studied public relations at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA and is now working with Go Overseas in the Bay Area. Her experiences with traveling abroad combined with her passion for Latin American culture and community service fuel her writing and creativity. Follow Katie on Twitter @VolunteeReviews, Google+ and her Blog.