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Diversity and Inclusion

The Peace Corps seeks to reflect the rich diversity of the U.S. and bring diverse perspectives and solutions to development issues in the countries we serve. For the Peace Corps, diversity is a collection of individual attributes that together help the agency pursue organizational objectives efficiently and effectively. These include national origin, language, race, color, disability, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, veteran status, and family structures. Diversity also encompasses where people are from, where they have lived, and their differences of thought and life experiences.

We also seek to create inclusion—a culture that connects each staff and Volunteers to the organization; encourages collaboration, flexibility, and fairness; and leverages diversity throughout the organization so that all individuals are able to participate and contribute to their full potential—throughout the Volunteer and staff lifecycle.

Diversity and Inclusion at Your Site

Once in country, you will begin to notice diversity in perspectives, race, ethnicity, age, depth of conversation, and degree of support you may receive—and may need to make adjustments. You will be in the minority, if not the sole American like you, at your site. During pre-service training, a session will be held to discuss diversity and inclusion and how you can bridge differences, find common ground with fellow Volunteers and Montenegrins, and serve as an ally for your peers. Ethnic, religious and national diversity is heavily present in Montenegro (Montenegrin, Serb, Croatian, Bosniak, Albanian, Muslim, Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Roman Catholic Christianity); however, the population is predominantly Caucasian with a small minority of Roma and Egyptian population. As such, people of color are not often seen by the local population.

Cross-Cultural Considerations

The Peace Corps emphasizes the importance of professional behavior and cross-cultural sensitivity among Volunteers and within their communities to help integration and achieve successful service. As a Volunteer and representative of the United States, you are responsible to both raise awareness of the vast diversity of U.S. culture with your host country national counterparts and in turn learn from your host country’s diversity.

To ease the transition to life in your host country, you may need to make some temporary, yet fundamental, compromises in how you present yourself as an American and as an individual, and you will need to develop techniques and personal strategies for coping with these limitations. During pre-service training, staff will provide training on how to adapt personal choices and behavior to be respectful of the host country culture and will be available for ongoing support.

What Might a Volunteer Face?

Gender Roles

It will be important to absorb and to attempt to understand the cultural nuances of gender roles in your host country. During pre-service training, you will receive an introduction to gender awareness in-country and will take time to examine your own thinking about gender roles and how they have impacted you. You’ll then learn to analyze development projects using a gender lens to better understand gender roles in your host country and how these gender roles can benefit or limit what females and males may or may not do—both from a personal standpoint and in relation to work and relationships in-country.

Gender stereotypes are much more evident and accepted in Montenegro than in the United States. By tradition, women are often expected to cook and to look after the needs of their husbands and children although many also work outside the home. You should be aware that Montenegro has a more traditional approach in terms of gender roles, and in some conservative communities it is frowned upon women drinking or smoking in public. As in any other country, it is advised to not walk alone at night. Your adjustment to Montenegrin customs will be difficult and frustrating at times, but you should be mindful of how your behavior could affect you and your host family.

Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color

Because of limited exposure to People of Color, some Montenegrins may expect U.S. citizens to be white. Volunteers of Color will be racial minorities. The range of responses to their skin color may vary greatly including unwanted attention, staring, touching, the use of disparaging language, microaggressions, and Volunteers may face behavior and language skill expectations. These instances can be turned into teachable moments for the Volunteer and the host country national. These instances may also become a significant part of service for Volunteers of color, and thus take a mental, physical and emotional toll on them. All Volunteers should be mindful of issues of race/ethnicity and should be an ally to fellow Volunteers.

Possible Issues for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning/Queer, Ally (LGBTQIA+) Volunteers

The Peace Corps actively supports Volunteers and staff of all genders and sexual orientations and encourages Volunteers to serve as allies to their fellow Volunteers in all aspects. Many countries where the Peace Corps serves have more restrictive cultures with regard to sexual orientation and non-conforming gender identities. In every country, Peace Corps staff will work with Volunteers to provide them with locally informed perspectives. Some LGBTQIA+ Volunteers have chosen to come out to community members, with a result of positive and negative reactions, while some have come out only to select Peace Corps staff and Volunteers. Many have chosen to be discreet about their orientation and/or gender identity within their host community. Same sex unions (Life Partnership) are legal in Montenegro, and there are yearly celebrations of the Pride parade as well as many other events, mainly in the capital. However, many parts of Montenegro are still traditional and conservative. Volunteers should be aware that there have been incidents of violence concerning gender identity and sexual orientation. LGBTQIA+ support groups are available in-country and may be able to provide a network to support the needs of the Peace Corps LGBTQIA+ community.

Possible Issues for Volunteers with Disabilities

Peace Corps staff will work with Volunteers with disabilities to support them in training, housing, job sites, or other areas to enable them to serve safely and effectively.

Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers

Montenegro’s religion generally varies by location. Some areas of the country practice Orthodox Christianity as the dominant form of religion, while other regions practice Islam or Catholic Christianity. Most Montenegrins identify with one of the three religions because of family history but may be non-practicing members. All religions are generally well-tolerated in Montenegro, and practicing a religion is not likely to be an issue. However, you should be aware that at certain sites there might not be a house of worship even for religions that are prevalent in other regions of the country. The Peace Corps forbids Volunteers from proselytizing or participating in other religious activities that could impair their effectiveness as Volunteers.

Possible Issues for 50+ Volunteers

Older Volunteers may find their age an asset in-country as Montenegrins tend to respect older adults. A 50+ individual may be the only older person in a group of Volunteers and so should be able to adapt to working with younger people.

You may feel isolated within the Peace Corps community because of the age difference with your cohor; however, once at site you will quickly be able to find people of your age and experience to create new friendships and rewarding relationships. The experience brought by 50+ Volunteers is invaluable to partner organizations. In order to exchange this experience with local partners, 50+ Volunteers will need to be tactful and patient.