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Promoting participation in development through volunteerism

7th May 2012
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The SWV report focuses on stimulating people to offer their services as volunteers, both at home and abroad. (File Photo)

Today, Monday, 7th May, 2012, there will be an important event, the launch of the 2011 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report (SWVR), which has been compiled and issued by UN Volunteers, a chapter of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

According to the UNV Programme officer in Tanzania, Stella Karegyesa, the activities for the 2011 SWV report launch will take place today at the Karimjee Hall, Dar es Salaam starting from 9.00am. There will be a number of activities including the presentation of the report, entertainment, debates and a plenary discussion of the report.

The opening remarks of the event will be done by the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Mr. Albeic Kacou; while the presentation of the SWV report will be done by Aygen Aytac.

UNV Tanzania has requested me to be one of the panelists during the discussion of and the launch of the State of the World’s Volunteerism Report. Other panelists are Mrs Joyce Shaidi, former Director, Youth Department, Ministry of Labor, Employment and Youth Development; Mr. Moses Mzava, Lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam; Mr. Israel Ilunde, Executive Director of Youth Partnerships Worldwide; and Mr. Alfred Maghema, a student at Sokoine University of Agriculture, and Executive Director of Tanzania Youth for Community Prosperity (TYPC). These panelists will attempt to discuss the report while drawing life experience from our society. The aim is to analyse the extent to which volunteerism has and can support socio-economic development in Tanzania.

The report, which is the first UN report ever on volunteerism and is commissioned by the UNV programme seeks to draw attention to the state of the world volunteerism by researching different definitions of volunteerism and documents the impact of volunteerism on peace and development around the world as far as feasible.

SWVR also attempts to demonstrate that volunteerism is a global phenomenon characterized by commonalities as well as by differences reflecting local, social, economic, gender, religious and global factors. Above all, it tries to raise awareness and recognition of volunteerism and gain widespread support in order to fully realize and harness the potential and power of volunteerism for transformation change and sustainable peace and development.

According to Flavia Pansieri, the Executive Coordinator, UN Volunteers, the focus of the report is on universal values that motivate people the world over to volunteer for the common good and on the impact of volunteer action on societies and individuals. We believe in the power of volunteering to promote cooperation, encourage participation and contribute to the well-being of individuals and of society as a whole.

Launching of SWV report hopes to heighten people’s and governments’ awareness of the voluntary contributions. It also focuses on stimulating people to offer their services as volunteers, both at home and abroad.

Over the years, governments, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and individuals participated in promoting volunteerism in various activities including: Voluntary community projects; Parades, marches, or rallies; Award ceremonies for volunteers who made significant contributions to their communities; “Time donation” campaigns that involve people pledging hours of voluntary service to specific projects; Companies launching voluntary programs as part of their corporate responsibility; Volunteer competitions; and many other activities.

Volunteerism helps promote the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, which include: eradicating poverty; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality and empowering women; reducing child mortality and improving maternal health; reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other major diseases; as well as ensuring environmental sustainability.

Volunteerism occurs in every society in the world. Since time immemorial, in our Tanzanian societies people especially in rural areas at various times have devoted their time to support needy people such as the sick, disabled, poor, orphans, during weddings and funerals, when disasters strike, during farming as well as harvesting.

These people did not devote their time to support others expecting to obtain material wealth in return but they did so due to recognition of the importance of non-material attainments to the well-being of individuals and the entire society.

Material improvements such as health, education and decent work remain essential; but also participation, empowerment and active citizenship is very vital. Development is about expanding the choices available to people so they may lead lives that they value. Economic growth is only one means of increasing people’s choices.

Volunteerism becomes a very powerful expression of all these, where people can take control of their lives and make a difference to themselves and to those around them.

There are a number of reasons why people engage or should engage in volunteerism. The 2011 UN State of the World’s Volunteerism Report (SWVR) highlights that one of the reason is to help eliminate poverty and to improve basic health and education, to provide a safe water supply and adequate sanitation, to tackle environmental issues and climate change, to reduce the risk of disasters, and to combat social exclusion and violent conflicts.

Through volunteerism people can engage in the life of the communities and societies. In doing so, they acquire a sense of belonging and inclusion and they are able to influence the direction of their lives.

As volunteers the income poor realize their assets, which include knowledge, skills and social networks, for their own benefit, their families and their communities. Volunteerism strengthens the capacity of the most vulnerable to achieve secure livelihoods and enhance their physical, economic, spiritual and social well-being.

Volunteerism also promotes the civic values and social cohesion which mitigate violent conflict at all stages and it even fosters reconciliation in post-conflict situations. It supports to build trust and reduce existing social tensions.

Volunteering can help fresh graduates to build their working skills as well as social capital. According to Wikipedia, the social capital generated by volunteering plays a key role in economic regeneration by widening social networks needed by fresh graduates. It is possible that you will be able to obtain information on job opportunities through social networks or the organisation you are volunteering for.

I have personal experience in this. I completed my undergraduate studies in 2001, and I could not obtain any job for about a year. However, during this time I decided to volunteer with a youth NGO. Through this I managed to obtain a lot of information on job opportunities, including a job offer with an international NGO.

I agree with Flavia Pansieri, the Executive Coordinator of UNV Headquarters, who argued that volunteerism is not a wholly panacea to the problems of the world today. It is, however, an essential component of any strategy that recognizes that progress cannot be measured solely in terms of economic return and that individuals are not motivated by self-interest alone but also by their deep held values and beliefs.

Wherever your are, whatever age, I encourage you to make plans to join others or set up a group of people or friends to find some activities which need your time and resources as volunteers within your street and communities. Volunteering matters: light up the world!

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The writer is a specialist in Education Management, Economics of Education and Policy Studies. He can be reached through 0754304181 or masozi.nyirenda@gmail.com

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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