Volunteerism: empowering, transforming and mobilizing; a daily job.
by Emma Wretblad
Quito, Ecuador: In my assignment as an international UN Volunteer for the regional program of Engendering Budgets at UN Women, I oversaw and was involved daily in the volunteerism process. This was a way to empower women, change the balance of power between men and women and mobilize more volunteers to create a multiplier effect within communities.
The Engendering Budgets program is a joint regional program between UN Women and the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme. The UNV component was developed in three countries of the region: Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador. Each depended on the national UN Volunteer advocates who agreed to meet the objectives of the program and develop the requisite actions to achieve them.
My specific duty was to coordinate the UN Volunteer component which included organizing the work of volunteers in the three countries. I also assisted the Regional Technical Coordinator with the implementation of similar projects in nine countries of the region.*
Through our work as UN Volunteers there is support for the empowering effect of volunteerism on women who play an active role in planning and budgeting: an increase in self-esteem, recognition of rights and identities, access to decision-making opportunities, as well as the ability to formulate agendas and proposals for local government concerning women’s rights and gender equality. There is also support for the transformational effect of volunteerism in stimulating a closer relationship between local government and civil society.
Many times this approach is facilitated because of the neutral role of UN Volunteers located in different provinces. Also important are the changes in the relationships in women’s lives, families, organizations and communities. In these circumstances women have gained recognition and are a voice to be heard and respected. Last but not least, we advocate for policy changes and increased budgets for women’s rights and gender equality in several municipalities.
* Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, Peru, Venezuela and Uruguay.
Story translated from Spanish by UN Online Volunteer Howard Brown.
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