No Sex for Fish - Redefining Gender Relationships in Lake Victoria, Kenya

Women living along the shores of Lake Victoria whose livelihood depends on trading fresh fish are exceptionally vulnerable to contracting HIV. In order to acquire fresh fish daily, the women are often pressured into having sex with the fishermen who supply the fish. It is not uncommon for the fishermen to maintain several such relationships simultaneously with women at different beaches where they land with their fish. As such, women fish traders are extremely susceptible to contracting HIV.

A couple of years ago, two Peace Corps Volunteers – Dominik Mucklow (an Education Volunteer, 2009-11) and Michael Geilhufe (a Community Economic Development Volunteer, 2010-12) – who lived near Lake Victoria decided to do something to help these women. With support from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), they assisted a group of women fish traders to acquire their own fishing boats. The women then employed men to go fishing using these boats. This simple advancement allowed the women to be free from sexual exploitation in order to secure their fish supply.

A third Volunteer, Samantha Slater (a Community Economic Development Volunteer, 2011-13) just completed her service. Samantha dedicated her work to helping the women with the business aspects of operating the boats and their fish trade. The women have since obtained additional loans to purchase new nets or replace damaged nets. They were also taught how to keep sound financial records and manage the business well enough to be able to pay back their loans in a timely way. Recently-arrived Volunteer Lori Armstrong will continue working on good business practices with the women. The work that these volunteers initiated has generated significant interest in development circles, and there is now a clear push to expand this “No Sex For Fish” initiative to other beaches along Lake Victoria. With additional support, this simple initiative promises to completely re-write the gender relationships that rule Lake Victoria’s fishing industry today.

(Source: blog.aids.gov)

AIDS gender sexual exploitation PEPFAR Africa Kenya Lake Victoria community development economic development fishing global health small business development women

Earlier this year, more than 10 NGOs and international organizations in Durres, Albania collaborated with local government agencies to host a major anti-discrimination rally in the center of the city attended by several hundred people. The event was organized with the assistance of Peace Corps Volunteers Sara Babb and Kimberly Townsend with support from the city municipality, police department, public schools, and the Department of Education. The discriminated groups represented at-risk populations, including Roma, LGBT, Balkan Egyptians, people with special needs, abused women, internal migrants, economically disadvantaged, the elderly, and orphans.  Students in grades 8 - 9 were dismissed early from school so that they could march from their schools to the main square carrying messages about the need for people to respect each other and live in harmony. In the city center, the students congregated with other members of the community, including many volunteers. The mayor and several other civic leaders addressed the crowd, a group of youth preformed a choreographed dance routine, and the audience was invited to view an exposition of artwork created by marginalized groups. Following the event, the director of social service and Volunteer Sara Babb were interviewed by local media about the need to address discrimination in Albania. Sara spoke about how to spread awareness and focused on the importance of collaboration between civil society and local government as well as the need for increased integration of marginalized groups.

Earlier this year, more than 10 NGOs and international organizations in Durres, Albania collaborated with local government agencies to host a major anti-discrimination rally in the center of the city attended by several hundred people. The event was organized with the assistance of Peace Corps Volunteers Sara Babb and Kimberly Townsend with support from the city municipality, police department, public schools, and the Department of Education. The discriminated groups represented at-risk populations, including Roma, LGBT, Balkan Egyptians, people with special needs, abused women, internal migrants, economically disadvantaged, the elderly, and orphans. 

Students in grades 8 - 9 were dismissed early from school so that they could march from their schools to the main square carrying messages about the need for people to respect each other and live in harmony. In the city center, the students congregated with other members of the community, including many volunteers. The mayor and several other civic leaders addressed the crowd, a group of youth preformed a choreographed dance routine, and the audience was invited to view an exposition of artwork created by marginalized groups. 

Following the event, the director of social service and Volunteer Sara Babb were interviewed by local media about the need to address discrimination in Albania. Sara spoke about how to spread awareness and focused on the importance of collaboration between civil society and local government as well as the need for increased integration of marginalized groups.

anti-discrimination diversity LGBTQ special needs gender Albania

Peace Corps Volunteers in Morocco recently hosted an HIV/AIDS awareness session for 60 girl students at a local high school in Tarmikt. Aside from info presentations and an awesome jeopardy game led by Peace Corps Volunteer Sairah Jahangir, the attendees also had a Skype session with two female HIV/AIDS patients from Washington, D.C. 
Moroccan counterpart Fatiha Haouat translated questions written by students who wanted to know things like what it’s like being HIV-positive, how the women found out their status, and what their lives are like with the disease. For all of the students it was the first time they had ever met an actual person living with HIV, nonetheless had the opportunity to talk frankly about what living with the disease is like. Perhaps it was one of the first times HIV-positive women have ever had a platform in Morocco to speak publicly about their status and be unashamed. Michelle and Charlene, the two women interviewed, did an amazing job sharing their life stories and helped to change many perspectives on the stigma of the disease, especially as it affects women. 
The resounding message was that HIV is like any other disease and that they lead very normal lives. They advocated inclusion and support of women living with HIV, and also helped promote a safe sex message among students. It was a moving interview that called into question ideas of victimhood in Morocco, and how blaming the victim is a kind of injustice: Charlene became HIV-positive when she was raped at the age of 8, an incident that also left her pregnant. Charlene is a practicing Sunni Muslim who is now a resident at N Street Village, the organization that facilitated the interview. The Volunteers who led the session said it was incredible to see the faces of these two women projected on the schoolroom wall, to hear their actual voices speaking truth to stigma in a country where HIV patients cannot speak out for fear of persecution.

Peace Corps Volunteers in Morocco recently hosted an HIV/AIDS awareness session for 60 girl students at a local high school in Tarmikt. Aside from info presentations and an awesome jeopardy game led by Peace Corps Volunteer Sairah Jahangir, the attendees also had a Skype session with two female HIV/AIDS patients from Washington, D.C. 

Moroccan counterpart Fatiha Haouat translated questions written by students who wanted to know things like what it’s like being HIV-positive, how the women found out their status, and what their lives are like with the disease. For all of the students it was the first time they had ever met an actual person living with HIV, nonetheless had the opportunity to talk frankly about what living with the disease is like. Perhaps it was one of the first times HIV-positive women have ever had a platform in Morocco to speak publicly about their status and be unashamed. Michelle and Charlene, the two women interviewed, did an amazing job sharing their life stories and helped to change many perspectives on the stigma of the disease, especially as it affects women. 

The resounding message was that HIV is like any other disease and that they lead very normal lives. They advocated inclusion and support of women living with HIV, and also helped promote a safe sex message among students. It was a moving interview that called into question ideas of victimhood in Morocco, and how blaming the victim is a kind of injustice: Charlene became HIV-positive when she was raped at the age of 8, an incident that also left her pregnant. Charlene is a practicing Sunni Muslim who is now a resident at N Street Village, the organization that facilitated the interview. The Volunteers who led the session said it was incredible to see the faces of these two women projected on the schoolroom wall, to hear their actual voices speaking truth to stigma in a country where HIV patients cannot speak out for fear of persecution.

Morocco youth girls gender HIV AIDS AIDS-free generation N Street Village trigger warning: rape stigma Skype Washington DC global health health victim blaming HIV-positive HIV+ students school education

This year on Valentine’s Day, a group of Peace Corps Volunteers and community members in Tirana organized a One Billion Rising event aimed at raising awareness about gender-based violence in Albania, where the number of women who are violated or killed continues to increase. It started with a small group of dancers, but the numbers grew as the event continued, with young women and men joining dancing in support of such an important issue. Read more about One Billion Rising here http://onebillionrising.org/

This year on Valentine’s Day, a group of Peace Corps Volunteers and community members in Tirana organized a One Billion Rising event aimed at raising awareness about gender-based violence in Albania, where the number of women who are violated or killed continues to increase. It started with a small group of dancers, but the numbers grew as the event continued, with young women and men joining dancing in support of such an important issue. Read more about One Billion Rising here http://onebillionrising.org/

Albania One Billion Rising gender-based violence sexual assault gender Tirana Peace Corps Volunteers

Peace Corps Volunteers Lead Gender Equality Discussion in Azerbaijan

“The goal of the presentations was to promote social awareness as well as critical thinking in local community members,” said Wiersma, a graduate of Liberty University who has been living and working in Azerbaijan since September 2011. “We want to get the young members of rural Azerbaijan to start thinking outside of their daily scope of how men and women are seen and valued in Azerbaijan and move into what is possible for the future of their country.”

Azerbaijan gender equality education community development Peace Corps Volunteers gender women's rights social awareness culture

Today is the first-ever International Day of the Girl Child

The day was established by the the United Nations General Assembly to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges they face around the world. It’s an occasion for reaching out and educating others about the status of girls and the positive results that can be obtained by investing in them and is a good platform for engaging girls directly and offering them an opportunity to interact with positive role models. 

How did you help empower young women during your Peace Corps service? 

(Source: dayofthegirl.org)

USAID International Day of the Girl Child gender youth Peace Corps girls young women empowerment education equal rights

Peace Corps Volunteer Julie Nelson shared this photo and story about making a difference in the life of one young woman in Azerbaijan:"One of my students, Shole, has personally struggled a lot in the time I’ve known her. Her parents are divorced, her mother is absent, her father lives with his new wife, and she is being raised by her grandparents. Shole is very self-conscious about this situatio
n, and although she is a gifted student, it is very difficult getting her to commit to conversation clubs or other activities because of lack of motivation. However, this spring, she seemed more upbeat than usual, and she participated in ‘Write On’ contest for the first time. Shole won first place in the 8th grade category! Even though she seemed happy at the time, I could tell that she didn’t realize the significance of this accomplishment.A few months later, Shole participated in GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) Camp. I hadn’t seen her since the camp until she attended the Write On Awards Ceremony with me. It was a wonderful experience because she was absolutely glowing the entire time. She told me numerous times that she was happy and that she was thankful. Before leaving the ceremony, Shole said thank you again and that she loved me.My counterpart has since talked to her grandmother who said that Shole is very different now than she was a few months ago. Now she is driven and even wants to study and apply for the FLEX (Future Leaders Exchange) program!”Learn more about FLEX here http://exchanges.state.gov/youth/programs/flex.html

Peace Corps Volunteer Julie Nelson shared this photo and story about making a difference in the life of one young woman in Azerbaijan:

"One of my students, Shole, has personally struggled a lot in the time I’ve known her. Her parents are divorced, her mother is absent, her father lives with his new wife, and she is being raised by her grandparents. Shole is very self-conscious about this situatio

n, and although she is a gifted student, it is very difficult getting her to commit to conversation clubs or other activities because of lack of motivation. 

However, this spring, she seemed more upbeat than usual, and she participated in ‘Write On’ contest for the first time. Shole won first place in the 8th grade category! Even though she seemed happy at the time, I could tell that she didn’t realize the significance of this accomplishment.

A few months later, Shole participated in GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) Camp. I hadn’t seen her since the camp until she attended the Write On Awards Ceremony with me. It was a wonderful experience because she was absolutely glowing the entire time. She told me numerous times that she was happy and that she was thankful. Before leaving the ceremony, Shole said thank you again and that she loved me.

My counterpart has since talked to her grandmother who said that Shole is very different now than she was a few months ago. Now she is driven and even wants to study and apply for the FLEX (Future Leaders Exchange) program!”

Learn more about FLEX here http://exchanges.state.gov/youth/programs/flex.html

Peace Corps Volunteer Azerbaijan FLEX State Department gender youth education Camp GLOW leadership writing