Vanessa Akibate, UN Volunteer Communications Specialist, UNDP Zambia while documenting community stories in Zambia
Vanessa Akibate, UN Volunteer Communications Specialist with UNDP Zambia documents stories of community members in Zambia.

All hands on deck for a sustainable Zambia

My journey as a UN Volunteer began in August 2023. I had just completed an incredible learning experience with the African Young Women Leaders Fellowship Programme, a partnership of the African Union Commission and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). As I contemplated my next steps, the call to volunteer came loud and clear. 

I am an international UN Volunteer Communications Specialist from Ghana. My role with UNDP in Zambia involves connecting with people throughout the country to document stories of strife and triumph.

What I value most in my work is storytelling and bringing to the fore voices of the ones not heard.

I traveled to Sioma, Zambia’s Western Province and met a group of young people who used performing arts to raise awareness on climate change in rural communities. I met Nalucha, a 27-year-old woman. Nalucha had come a long way — from overcoming substance abuse to using performing arts to inspire young people to take action on development in their communities.

Talking to her, sharing her story in the form of a documentary and an article, showcasing her positive action. Everyone plays a part in sustainable development, this is what I call all hands on deck!

Nalucha's story reached a global audience. As a result, her community received attention from Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Programme. The work of the United Nations is increasingly important in connecting local communities' needs to global audiences.

Communities benefit most when we amplify the voices of the most vulnerable. Through storytelling, we open a window to the rest of the world, allowing audiences around the globe to understand how global issues materialize in local contexts.


Vanessa Akibate (left) UN Volunteer Communications Specialist, UNDP Zambia interacts with Ahunna Eziakonwa, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Regional Director for Africa. @UNDP Zambia, 2023.


As an African woman, I feel a mutual sense of responsibility and gratitude to use my skills and abilities to share new, fresh, and dignifying stories of other Africans and other women.

While supporting projects such as GEF-SGP in Zambia, the Government of Zambia and the United Nations — GRZ-UN Joint Programme on Gender-Based Violence, GRZ-UN Joint Programme on Youth, among others, I have met inspiring women from all walks of life. 

I met women who wanted to be independent after having been through the trauma of violent and abusive relationships. I have learned much from women driving small-scale and cross-border trade in Botswana, Namibia and Zambia. It's been a learning experience — these women enriched my understanding of the issues plaguing the continent and the wealth of capacity we have to solve these problems. 

My volunteer assignment allows me to interact with volunteers from different backgrounds and with different abilities. One such opportunity was the Strengthening Climate Resilience of Agricultural Livelihoods in Agro-Ecological Regions I And II in Zambia project where I met several professionals and expanded my knowledge on the effects of climate change on small-holder farmers in Zambia. It was an opportunity to learn about climate resilience and adaptation programmes. 

It is through volunteerism that I immerse myself in a variety of complex and rich stories. I am clearer on the actions I need to take for contributing to sustainable development on the continent I call home, and the networks I need to build to get there.