With the training for Third Sector professionals on mainstreaming gender perspective in volunteering, which took place on 24th November, our flagship project, VOLUMEN (VOLunteering for inclusive DevelopMENt), comes to an end.

During the VOLUMEN Seminar, we were able to present an innovative tool based on non-formal education to integrate gender mainstreaming in volunteering, our Toolkit “Can volunteering & community work be gender unbiased? The act of offering for a world of gender equality. At the same time, we trained professionals from NGOs and partner entities to implement these methodologies in their activities.

VOLUMEN: our journey as promoters of equality

However, VOLUMEN has been much more than its closure. A project of this calibre has involved a long journey and a cross-cutting and transformative work, where I could contribute firsthand to multiple actions focused on promoting gender and sexual equality in volunteering. From community workshops for volunteers and activists to the journey to optimize collaboration between partners in Spain and Greece, through the comprehensive development of an awareness campaign and the creation of innovative equality education tools.

Among the multitude of learnings and best practices we have gathered during the implementation of various initiatives, I am pleased to highlight some key ideas for our struggles for equality.

What has the VOLUMEN project taught us?

One of the main lessons learned during the project’s implementation has been the need to approach gender mainstreaming from an intercultural perspective. This approach is necessary in Erasmus+ projects like ours, where we work closely with partners from different countries that have influence in specific contexts and target different groups. An intercultural perspective allows, on the one hand, to discard preconceived solutions and, on the other hand, to use the gender concept as an umbrella to promote initiatives adapted to specific contexts and cultures. If we can deconstruct ourselves and step down from the pedestal of the Western gaze, we can see how cultural diversity not only does not limit but enriches and multiplies our efforts for equality.

Simultaneously, the second key, which complements the first, is reflected in the urgency of focusing on intersectional and global struggles. Intersectionality has emerged as a fundamental principle in both our workshops with volunteers and activists and in the training of professionals. This means that, when working in spaces of equality, it is necessary to do so by supporting the rights and claims of all women and those discriminated against. Attention must be paid to how multiple systems of oppression, such as patriarchy, homotransphobia, racism, classism, and ableism, overlap and reinforce each other.

Finally, this project has only confirmed the important role that Third Sector entities can assume in promoting gender and sexual equality in volunteering and other aspects of our activity. Hence, the need to promote spaces of positive reinforcement and exchange among Third Sector specialists committed to equality. Our role as facilitators in training showed us that we need to lose the fear of making mistakes and revising ourselves. Thus, by focusing on sharing and co-creating knowledge, solutions, and tools we can build truly inclusive and equal spaces, both in volunteering and in life.

Looking to the future: the fight for equality continues

VOLUMEN is coming to an end, but our commitment to gender and sexual equality in volunteering continues. In fact, it is more revitalised than ever, as the two years of project implementation and management leave us, among other things, with a wealth of experience on gender and inclusion, as well as valuable equality education tools.

As part of the project’s sustainability plan, we will continue to promote the Toolkit, and simultaneously, we are already writing a new project based on the experience gained and aimed at promoting equality and challenging gender stereotypes in the specific field of NGOs and youth work. Our goal is to multiply the impact of VOLUMEN and continue the promotion of equality, also counting on the links with volunteers, activists, and professionals generated along the way.

Final reflections on the VOLUMEN project by Maddalena Pontiggia, Communication & ESC Officer SCI Madrid

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