Peace Corps Celebrates Women's History Month

March 2, 2009

This year's national theme: "Women Taking the Lead to Save our Planet"

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 2, 2009 - This March, in honor of National Women's History Month, the Peace Corps recognizes the achievements of female Peace Corps Volunteers, as well as women leaders within the agency who contribute to fulfilling the agencys mission and goals.

"Women Peace Corps Volunteers have shown a dedication to service that has strengthened the agency throughout its history," said Acting Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen. "Their contributions are considerable, and continue to lead Peace Corps into the 21st century."

In the Peace Corps, female Peace Corps Volunteers have consistently outnumbered male volunteers for more than 20 years. Currently, 60 percent of the 7,876 Peace Corps Volunteers serving are women.

"Women Taking the Lead to Save our Planet," this year's national theme, recognizes the endeavors of women to protect our environment. Currently, female Peace Corps Volunteers are engaged in environmental protection and education, as well as promoting sustainable agriculture and ecotourism. Here are some examples:

  • Volunteer Colleen Gatliff serves in the Dominican Republic as a liaison between her community, the tourism sector and an environmental protection group called Reef Check. She also works with a local youth group to promote conservation and environmental awareness.

  • Volunteer Maya Breitburg-Smith serves in Fiji working on waste management issues and promoting environmental protection amongst community members, including her village headman known as the "turaga ni koro." Says Breitburg-Smith, "During my time there, they easily became the village with the best waste management system, and the village that I most enjoyed working with."

  • Volunteer Andi Bryant, a Forestry Business Advisor at Mexico's National Forestry Commission, is working to help improve small businesses grow in a sustainable manner. With support from local experts, Bryant was able to able to design a training program for resin harvesting in permitted areas.

  • Volunteer Randee Edmundson, a secondary school Biology teacher in a rural farming village in Tanzania, is using her background in community gardening, along with 25 years as a science teacher to raise awareness in her local community about HIV/AIDS, and promote the development of gardens close to home. She is currently working on a local school garden to provide school children fresh food for their lunches, and home gardens for caretakers as well as those living with HIV/AIDS to ensure that all receive better nutrition from fresh food.


Other notable female volunteers who have been Volunteers in the Peace Corps include: Pamela W. Barnes (Paraguay, 1998-2000), President and CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation; Anne Lynam Goddard (Kenya, 1979-1981) President of the Christian Children's Fund; Priscilla Wrubel, Founder, The Nature Company (Liberia, 196364); Molly Melching, Founder and Executive Director, Tostan (Senegal, 1976-79); Maureen Orth (Colombia, 1964-1966) Special Correspondent for Vanity Fair magazine.

The oldest currently serving female Peace Corps Volunteer is Elaine Bachman, 80, who currently serves in the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Women have also shown great vision and passion as agency leaders. The longest serving Director in Peace Corps history was a woman, Loret Miller Ruppe. Returned Volunteer Jody Olsen currently serves as Acting Director of the Peace Corps.

As the Peace Corps approaches its 50th anniversary, its service legacy continues to promote peace and friendship around the world. Historically, over 195,000 Volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 139 countries in which they have served. Applications to serve in the Peace Corps have increased 16 percent this past year, the largest boost in the last five years. Currently, 7,876 Peace Corps Volunteers are serving in 76 countries. Peace Corps Volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment.



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