Sarah Chardonnens (right) is a UN Youth Volunteer Human Rights Support Officer - with the UNDP Governance Unit in Iraq - whose UNV assignment is fully funded by the Government of Switzerland. (UNV, 2014)

Message from the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme on the occasion of International Women’s Day

“Equality for women is progress for all." Today, the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme joins in the global celebration of this compelling theme for International Women’s Day.

“Equality for women is progress for all." Today, the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme joins in the global celebration of this compelling theme for International Women’s Day. We know that development can neither be equitable nor sustainable as long as women are disproportionately affected by poverty, have lower access to education or health care, and continue to suffer social, cultural and political constraints.

UNV aims to contribute to sustainable development through engaging volunteers and the spirit of volunteerism. We believe that volunteerism can help women have a real voice and role in shaping their livelihoods and their communities and helping accelerate development for all.  Women volunteer as a way to combat poverty, contribute to the economy, extend mutual support and achieve a greater level of inclusion.

UNV is committed to supporting women’s engagement in participatory processes, increasing their involvement in, and impact on, local decision-making and enhancing local, national and regional accountability. In countries and communities across the world, we know that women have been strongly engaged in volunteer action to achieve their goals. Local volunteer-based organizations established and run by women are found throughout the developing world.

At the same time, we need to keep doing more to leverage the power of volunteer action to open up spaces for women’s engagement beyond stereotypical gender roles.

We already see that women are seizing opportunities for themselves: women’s active volunteering in the social and political movements in different regions is helping them have a voice in the issues that affect their lives, create social networks and generate much-needed social capital. In doing so, women are breaking down stereotypes about their roles and potential.  

We are especially proud to salute all women volunteers who are working to support the work of the United Nations in extremely diverse development contexts and initiatives.  We recognize UN Volunteers like Human Rights Officers Ariel Ida Ngondi (Cameroon) and Karen Oliveira da Costa (Brazil) who worked with the United Nations Mission in Côte d’Ivoire and brought their own unique perspectives and approaches to their roles in prison and detention centre monitoring. We celebrate the work of national UN Volunteer Martha Guerrero Jiménez in Ecuador, who helped women gain awareness about their rights in the context of a UNV project that enables women in Argentina, Ecuador and Bolivia to take part in the participatory planning processes of their local governments where development action plans are being prepared.  While we see UN Online Volunteers Hazel Alfon and Riddhima Mehta, who came together virtually from different corners of the world to help address issues of women’s access to credit, micro-finance and contributions to trade for the first African Regional Conference on Women Access to Trade and Finance in Ghana, as true inspiration in action.

In this first year of our new four-year programme period, UNV reiterates its commitment to helping ensure equality for women, based not only on our commitment to fundamental human rights but also in our explicit recognition of the role of women as a driving force for peace and development efforts, and societal transformation across all areas of  focus. We are more determined than ever that our volunteering opportunities will be equally accessible to women and men, and to helping women and girls with opportunities to use their expertise to serve their communities, to learn and practice new skills, take on new roles, and inspire others.

International Women’s Day is the day we salute all those who, by their example and action, are turning the vision of a world where all women enjoy equality and their full human rights into a reality.  While there is still a long way to go, we proudly celebrate the role of volunteering in reaching a world where there is equality for women and progress for all.

Watch video of UNV message for International Women's Day.