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Navigating Identities in Mozambique

Peace Corps’ Intercultural Competence, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (ICDEIA) approach seeks to reflect and support the diversity of the United States through its staff and Volunteers, who represent a broad collection of social identities, including race, ethnicity, color, national origin, disability, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, religion, marital status, and socioeconomic status, among others.

How might a Volunteer’s social identities impact their service?

The information below provides additional context about how different social identity groups may experience service and what types of ICDEIA-related support you can expect from the Peace Corps.

Accessibility and disability considerations

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

There is very little of the infrastructure, like ramps, railings, and elevators, needed to accommodate individuals with physical disabilities compared to those in the United States. However, staff are committed to exploring creative and innovative ways to support reasonable accommodations for Volunteer success.

Gender role considerations

Mozambique’s constitution provides for the equality of men and women, although in reality women have the less-favored position legally, economically, and customarily. Mozambican women throughout the country often have limited access to schooling and are expected to support their households alone.

The culture of men-women relationships is very conservative, and there is very little public affection displayed between men and women . Women and Volunteers presenting as women may find that they are constantly asked about their marital status and whether they have children, because women of a certain age are expected to be married.

LGBTQI+ considerations

Since 2015, same-sex relationships were decriminalized for adults under Mozambique law. Nevertheless, people identifying as LGBTQI+ may still face considerable discrimination and prejudice, especially outside the capital city of Maputo. Generally speaking, in the rural and small towns where Volunteers work and live, there is limited understanding of expressions of gender identities other than cisgender.

Learn more about the experience of a recent Volunteer in this article and video.

Racial and ethnic diversity considerations

Because of limited exposure, some Mozambicans will expect all U.S. citizens to be White, and are unaware of diversity in the U.S. For Volunteers, the range of responses to their skin color may vary greatly: from being mistaken for a community member to being questioned about their U.S. citizenship; or from facing behavior and language skill expectations or ridicule, to being able to get better prices for goods and services. All Volunteers should be mindful of the issues of race and ethnicity that are embedded in U.S. culture and within your country of service and should be intentional in being an ally to your fellow Volunteers.

Age considerations

Older Volunteers may find their age an asset in-country and will often have access to individuals and insights that are not available to younger Volunteers. Elders in Mozambican communities are considered leaders and are often given great respect, though this can be challenging for Volunteers as they often feel like novices in their new environments.

Religious considerations

Mozambique is a secular state, but religion plays an important role in culture. A recent estimate concluded that 55.8% of the population of Mozambique was Christian, 17.5% was Muslim (mainly Sunni), 0.5% had no religion, 26.1% adhered to traditional beliefs, and 0.3% of the population practiced other religions.

Traditional African faiths are widespread and often combined with Christian or Muslim beliefs. Mozambicans are quite tolerant of religious differences, and you are likely to experience a diversity of faiths in your host community.

Considerations for Volunteer couples

Couples may face pressure from community members to change their roles to conform better with traditional relationships in-country. Community members may find U.S. relationship dynamics and gender roles to be a significant cultural difference that may be challenging for them to bridge.

It is also helpful to think about how pressures to conform to local culture can be challenging to men and women in very different ways. It will be important for Volunteers to consider how your partner or opposite sex is being affected by traditional or different cultural norms. Discuss what, if any, aspects of your relationship should be adjusted and can help reduce stress for you both.

Peace Corps Mozambique is open to receiving same-sex couples. Staff will work with same-sex couples to help support them in training, housing, job sites, or other areas to enable them to serve safely and effectively.

Types of ICDEIA support available in country

Peace Corps Mozambique has a staff-led ICDEIA committee that works to intentionally foster a more inclusive and equitable organizational culture within Peace Corps. The committee collaborates with and seeks input from Volunteers on various ICDEIA efforts from working to make training and programming more effective and appropriate, to co-creating ideas to strengthen inclusion and belonging for Volunteers, staff, and host country partners.

Staff periodically meet with host country human rights groups and advocates to better understand the ICDEIA climate in country and invite representatives from local groups to meet with trainees and Volunteers during certain training and programming events. The ICDEIA committee also collaborates with the embassy-based DEIA council to identify potential support avenues and programs that can be helpful for volunteers.