With two-thirds of the world’s illiterate population female and countless girl children not receiving a basic education, supporting women in developing countries is vital to helping overcome critical social issues such as poverty and unemployment.
By supporting women in society and giving them access to equal opportunities such as an education, jobs and health care, everyone benefits. Infant mortality rates go down, more children stay in school, incomes increase and the cycle of poverty can be broken. By volunteering on this program with GVI, you will join a dedicated team of international volunteers assisting on sustainable and invaluable women’s empowerment initiatives.
In India, women are born into a society that is still having to face social inequalities ranging from gender-specific abortions, mistreatment from their spouses, eve teasing, being married off at an early age and in some cases being denied an education by their families. Through our initiatives in India, we aim to assist in gender equality through various educational, healthcare and income initiatives and empower local women by educating them on their rights the opportunities available to them.
Contribute towards meaningful and sustainable women’s empowerment initiatives and make a serious difference in the lives of girls and women in the local community; meet volunteers from across the world; support our local henna artist and immerse yourself in the Indian culture; experience a new culture through its local people; explore India, while kayaking along the river and cycling through villages; spend the night on a houseboat and cruise along the enchanting backwaters; indulge in a traditional Ayurvedic massage or simply spend your down time relaxing on the gorgeous beaches the country has to offer!
"I worked with GVI as a volunteer every summer from 2006 to 2012 and had the opportunity to take part in most inspiring projects where GVI is promoting community development and sustainable livelihoods. Although GVI has been involved in different projects in different continents, all of them were designed to be holistic and focus on people’s needs and resources. This integrated conception of development caught my attention from the beginning, and has taught me that education sits at the <span id="59247313-6ed6-4747-8d29-24ad75801688" class="GINGER_SOFTWARE_mark">center</span> of all efforts to enhance the resilience of fragile communities all over the world."
What's Not Included
During your time on this project, you will be living in the southern state of Kerala. A region famed for its beautiful backwaters, mountains and art forms like Kathakali. You will be staying in shared dormitory style accommodation with your fellow volunteers, near to the center of town, with running water, electricity and flushing toilets. Volunteers can look forward to experiencing authentic dishes from the local community, with lunch and dinner being prepared in the local style.
Upon your arrival, you will receive an introductory orientation by the staff covering health and safety, a basic local language lesson, a tour of the township, an introduction to our local partners and some initial training to prepare you as much as possible for life on the project.
From Monday to Friday you will be working at your volunteer placement. Volunteers can expect to be involved in numerous facets of our women’s empowerment program depending on the needs of the projects at that given time and as such should be prepared to be flexible and adapt to change in the field. From providing one-on-one educational lessons with girl children in local schools, to hosting alternative income and health workshops around the community or working in vocational training centres, all your time and effort will be geared to uplifting the women of India and providing long-term solutions to gender imbalance and discrimination.
On the weekends you will be free to explore this stunning location. Kerala offers a variety of adventure trips to sate the desire of your inner adrenaline junkie with trekking, rafting, kayaking, and picturesque diving just some of the options to choose from, there’s no need to ever experience a dull moment! Close to base you can soak in the local culture with a trip to Dort Kochi and visit the St Francis Church, choose from an array of boutique art galleries, or experience the local cuisine at a variety of cafes and restaurants. For trips further abroad, the Periyar Forest and National Park offers you the chance to spot elephants, monkeys and even tigers on their scenic safari outings.
What's Not Included
In India, women and girls experience different forms of gender discrimination. Whether it's from sexual harassment, fewer employment opportunities or unequal pay, Indian women are often not treated as equals to their male counterparts.
GVI is providing women and girls with the skills to make opportunities more accessible through our Women of Kerala and Girl's Voice courses. Our projects will be focused on providing education, health care, life skills and income opportunities in order to help women further their education and become more financially independent, while at the same time making sure they are aware of their rights, have access to basic health care and skill development opportunities.
Volunteers on this project might have the chance to help us achieve these goals in the following ways:
How this project makes a difference
- Providing access to education on literacy, rights and life skills
- Providing alternative income generation skills workshops
- Providing courses on women's health
- Providing additional educational support to young girls in local schools and communities
Through the various objectives that this project focuses on, GVI is able to address the various gender inequalities that exist within the local communities in Kerala. Through our health care initiatives, we are able to educate local women in general and family health care, thereby helping to reduce infant and child mortality rates and create healthier families. By giving women access to the same local resources as men such as an education, we can increase the income threshold per household, empower women to become more financially independent and help them to achieve their personal and professional goals.
What's Not Included
Volunteering with GVI not only allows you to participate in programs assisting disadvantaged communities or endangered ecosystems, but it also offers wonderful opportunities to travel in the local area in your down time or further afield either before or after your program. Many decide to travel after volunteering, solidifying the lifetime friendships established on the program.
Our long term field staff are a great source of advice and are here to help you make the most of your time abroad. Remember to ask about discounts on local activities and side trips through your association with GVI. Our Kerala field teams have helped us put together the following information on trips and travel options in India!
Included Side Trips
You will embark on an orientation of Fort Kochi during your arrival weekend, seeing the main tourist sites of the local town, as well as the many hidden treasures. You will also be taken to a traditional Keralan Kathakali dance show, which will open your eyes up to the wonders of India and its culture.
Optional Side Trips
Kerala offers a variety of different adventure trips from trekking to rafting, kayaking and even diving in some of the most beautiful locations that India has to offer. Close to base in Fort Kochi, the 14th century Chinese fishing nets, St Francis Church and an amazing array of boutique art galleries, cafes and restaurants make for an amazing cultural experience.
One of Kerala’s finest attractions popular with our volunteers is the backwaters tour, an experience of breath-taking beauty and serenity as you snake through the incredible landscape on a houseboat. You can stay overnight, eat amazing local cuisine, and gaze at the sunset: a perfect weekend getaway.
The Periyar Forest and National Park offers safari outings and a chance to spot elephants, monkeys and tigers if you’re lucky, combined with some spectacular scenery along the way. For the more active, you can get even closer to it all with a number of trekking options.
Kerala can boast some incredible beaches within reasonable distances from your base. Marari is a short 40-minute drive with beautiful sandy beaches lined with coconut trees, while Varkala is a little further with restaurants and cafés perched spectacularly on cliffs offering incredible views of the ocean.
And if tea is your poison, then this is the location for you… tea plantations stretching as far as the eye can see and jaw dropping views of mountain ranges and valleys await. There are sightseeing and trekking options available (depending on seasons) for the adventurous, or you can just sit and relax, breathe the fresh mountain air, and soak it all in.
Further Travelling Opportunities
For those with a little more time on their hands, you may want to consider some of the following. The Taj Mahal will be top of most India bucket lists, but beyond this famous landmark; the quaint hill stations in Darjeeling; the Ganges at Varanasi; the desert and fort palaces of Jaisalmer and Udaipur; safari at Kanha National Park (home of Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’); the lively nightlife of Mumbai; or the laid back atmosphere of Goa will leave you with an everlasting experience of India.
Transport Coordinator and Translator
Meet Jutten, our local Transport Coordinator and Translator here at our hub in India. Being a native of the country, he was asked to drive the tuk-tuk and coordinate the other tuk-tuks for the volunteers in Kerala. Later he was offered to be a official staff member and was thrilled to take the job.
He has worked with all of the projects here in Kerala. "I like to work with both the sports and health projects, because I enjoy seeing the beneficiaries happy and satisfied."
Before working with GVI he was a package tour driver as an English/Hindi/Tamil speaking tour guide. Since joining us he has taken great pride in his work and is enjoying meeting all the volunteers. "I like to see people happy. All the people that I meet through working here are treating me as their own."
Assistant Director of Programs
Meet Jill, our Assistant Director of Programs and line manager for Thailand, Laos, India, Nepal, Australia and Kenya programs. ‘Manow’ (lime), as she’s locally known in Thailand where she's based, taught English, environmental education and art in the USA and Thailand before joining us to set up a TEFL and Community Development Expedition. “I haven’t looked back since!”
When Jill isn’t working, she likes reading or doing just about anything energetic. “I devour books, love cooking and enjoy finding some time to get some exercise – yoga, dancing and aerobics are some of my faves.”
What does Jill like most about her job? “It’s great to see volunteers rising above the cultural and language barriers between themselves and the communities. That, and every day is completely different, which is the way I like it- it keeps me from getting bored.” Being ‘allergic’ to being bored has led to Manow doing some pretty amazing things. “I once ended up spending a week living in a cave with some Buddhist monks while I helped them build a small adobe monk hut.”
Meet Lucy, our Base Manager here in Kerala. As wildlife conservation student, she initially joined GVI as a wildlife conservation intern to gain practical experience before staying on as a part of the team. Lucy has worked on our former Shimoni hub as long-term staff member before moving to India.
What does Lucy think volunteers bring to the projects? ” Without a doubt, the programs would not be able to run without the volunteers. The sheer amount of data volunteers help us to collect is immense, and so vitally important.”
Lucy’s highlights since working for GVI? “Setting up a new partner project in Kenya’s Western province, where I worked with a grassroots community group in Kenya’s last rainforest was amazing."
Meet Zeno, our Country Director in India. He used to work on Crocodile Morphology and Ecology and has even trekked the Sierra Madre mountain range in the North of the Philippines in search of one of the last members of a critically endangered freshwater crocodile population. Zeno used to be our Country Director in Kenya a few years ago before moving to India.
His most memorable moments since he started working with GVI? Was discovering a population of ‘hidden’ African Skimmer Birds at Lake Turkana, which turned to represent almost 40 percent of the world population. “That, and when my cat left a snake at my bed as a ‘present’, which turned out to be a new species for Kenya!”
His favourite aspect of his job? ”Seeing people being in awe of everything new around them, realising and completely accepting how different their world of experiences suddenly has become.”