Patricia Pella, UN Volunteer with UNDRR in Moldova supports the capacity of cities and helps in climate resilience planning.
Patricia Pella, UN Volunteer with UNDRR in Moldova supports the capacity of cities and helps in climate resilience planning.

Everyone needs to take action for gender equality

UN Volunteers serve alongside United Nations agencies on initiatives for gender equality and women's empowerment.  The story of Héloïse Versavel, Kerem Okan and Patricia Pella from Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States demonstrates that collective action is crucial in promoting the rights of women and girls.

Through concerted efforts in Central Asia, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) aims to expand the opportunities for women and girls, promote positive social norms by engaging men and establish comprehensive systems and mechanisms for women and adolescents.

Héloïse Versavel, UN Volunteer Gender-Based Violence Specialist supports UNFPA in Kazakhstan. She has a background in Human Rights Law. 

Focusing on gender-based violence, Héloïse helps implement projects by creating communication messages and visuals, raising awareness of gender equality and societal norms, and advocating for women's empowerment. Gender equality needs collective action, says Héloïse.

To me, Women’s Day means International Women’s Rights Day. It is a reminder that not all women enjoy the same rights. It is also a call to do better, directed at people, stakeholders and governments.” Héloïse Versavel, UN Volunteer with UNFPA, Kazakhstan.

Women’s empowerment and gender equality cannot be achieved unless men and boys join the equality efforts. After Kerem Okan obtained his Master’s degree in Political Science, he wanted to volunteer at the field level to evaluate in tangible terms how his education positively impacted people's lives. 

As a UN Volunteer Project Assistant with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) in Türkiye, Kerem supported communication with partners and conducted site visits. Through these visits, he saw provinces requiring economic, social and psychological assistance. It was an opportunity for him to get a close and personal view of the situation, both regarding deficiencies and well-functioning mechanisms.

After the 6 February 2023 earthquake which hit Türkiye and north-west Syria, UN Women focused their efforts to address the basic needs of the women and girls residing in tents and containers located in the affected area. While visiting affected areas such as Adıyaman and Hatay, Kerem was reminded of the importance of volunteers serving in crisis response. 

Projects under Eliminating Violence against Women and Girls portfolio are designed to address the basic and future needs of women and girls affected by the earthquake. Working in and visiting the area affects one's mental health. Facing these challenges and trying to contribute to the project has been quite difficult but realizing that I can make a difference in someone’s life helps me to overcome difficulties.” Kerem Okan, UN Volunteer with UN Women, Türkiye.

In the wake of disasters such as the earthquake witnessed by Kerem, another pressing issue that demands attention is climate change, which also has a profound impact on the lives of women and girls globally.

Increasing temperatures, frequent floods and earthquakes widen inequalities. Food insecurity, school dropouts and income loss are some of the unfortunate consequences. According to UN Women, 1 out of 10 women is living in extreme poverty and under a worst-case climate scenario.

It's also predicted that climate change may push up to 158.3 million more women and girls into poverty globally.

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) works towards reducing disasters and ensures synergies among disaster reduction activities by guiding, monitoring, analyzing, and reporting. Through the Making Cities Resilient 2030 initiative, UNDRR supports cities and helps them adapt to climate change and resilience planning.

Patricia Pella has 20 years of professional experience in sustainable investment projects regarding water, climate finance and energy. She contributed to UNDRR’s efforts in Moldova as a UN Volunteer by participating in projects ranging from risk knowledge and risk governance support to identifying knowledge and data gaps and strengthening relations with stakeholders.

I decided to become a volunteer because it is the best way to have a holistic view of the country one is living in and at the same time, be able to give back to the country.” Patricia Pella, UN Volunteer with UNDRR, Moldova

Achieving gender equality requires everyone to take action. Héloïse Versavel, Kerem Okan, and Patricia Pella fulfill this commitment by volunteering. On International Women's Day, we salute them and many others around the globe who champion gender equality.