3 ways Virtual Service Participants empower women abroad

By Kelsey McMahon
Jan. 2, 2024

Since 2020, host country partners have a third option when it comes to receiving Peace Corps support with their community-driven projects: Virtual Service.

Participating U.S. citizens donate their professional services to collaborate online with counterparts and complete short-term projects across all six programmatic sectors. Some partners are choosing to leverage Virtual Service's remote support to empower local women and girls. Here are just three of the many ways they're doing just that.

1) Support a girl-led podcast
A graphic design of a woman speaking
Batonga's girl-led podcast

For 27 weeks, a U.S.-based Participant engaged online with an nongovernmental organization (NGO) in northern Benin, where in-person Volunteers are no longer placed for security reasons. The Participant and their dedicated counterpart produced inspiring, educational podcast episodes for rural communities while equipping the young women and girls involved with digital literacy skills. Project tasks included reviewing the French podcast scripts for areas of improvement, building the production team’s technical capacity, and co-facilitating trainings on content creation. The partner plans to expand the podcast’s reach and impact to other West African countries soon.

“Peace Corps Benin is so pleased to be able to connect a virtual Participant with a Batonga project that reaches girls in communities throughout Benin, including the northern part of the country, where we are not currently placing Peace Corps Volunteers. These empowering podcasts for girls help us have an impact and maintain connections in regions where we have worked for 50 years,” said Kristina Thompson, Benin’s director of programming and training.

2) Strengthen business skills among women

In Fiji, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) created a 24-week-long virtual engagement to build business skills among local women who are market vendors. The Participant connected online with four city-based market vendors to identify target areas of growth within proposal writing, budgeting, bookkeeping, brand marketing, and customer service. After the Participant and their counterpart facilitated the trainings, they met with each of the vendors for personalized guidance. UNDP had not previously worked with the Peace Corps, but their Virtual Service experience inspired them to request their first in-person Volunteer.

The Participant, Kaitlan Mahoney, also enjoyed the online collaboration – so much so that she applied to serve the same organization as a Response Volunteer.

“The [virtual engagement] focused on mentoring market vendors, and [my upcoming] Response position will focus on developing a training of the trainer toolkit to implement in their communities. I am grateful for the support of the UNDP team and their dedication to the Markets for Change Program.”

3) Collaborate with a women-led tourism group

Guatemala’s Ministry of Economy leveraged Virtual Service to support a women-led tourism group as they developed their marketing strategy. The women reported having varied levels of success with their local tours and workshops, which educate visitors on the local culture, including traditional foods and handicrafts. With the support of a Virtual Service Participant, the women developed a marketing strategy and conducted internal trainings. The tourism group is excited to apply their strengthened skills to successfully market their services. The short-term engagement may be complete, but the relationships built are far from over.

“The [women] taught me just as much about day-to-day life in Guatemala, their culture, and their specific businesses as I [shared my] marketing [skills]. The ladies and I [remain] in touch and continue learning about each other's cultures,” said Amarilis Correa, the Participant.

Want to get involved in an equally meaningful project? Check out the Virtual Service engagements.

Five women stand in front of a cross
The women-led tourism group before a tour.
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