International Women’s Day: Volunteer Improving the Lives of Women Around the World
For International Women’s Day, Cuso International celebrates and recognizes its volunteers and partner organizations working to improve the lives of women and children around the world. Caroline MacIsaac, of New Brunswick, is one of those Cuso International volunteers currently lending her expertise to an organization in Guyana that works to empower young women.
Empowering women is what led 21-year old Caroline MacIsaac to intern through Cuso International at Women Across Differences in Guyana, an organization that advocates for and supports women and teenage mothers.
As an intern, the Nova Scotia resident and University of New Brunswick graduate is working with Women Across Differences to build an advocacy strategy which will address young mothers accessing family planning. She is also working with the group Young Mothers for Change with the goal to help reduce teenage pregnancy and lessen discrimination against young mothers.
“The need in Guyana for improving access to education and quality health services for teen mothers is staggering,” Caroline said. “We just began our Comprehensive Empowerment Program for teenage moms (ages 13 to 16) last week, which has an intake of 30 girls, but we were provided a list of 112 eligible girls from just one local agency.”
Prior to applying for the internship, Caroline had never heard of Guyana – a small mainland country located in the northern part of South America, and also considered to be part of the Caribbean region – before applying for the six-month International Youth Internship Program placement.
“After graduation I started looking up opportunities to apply my skills in a real-life situation. My dad was the one who mentioned Cuso International’s volunteer and internship program,” Caroline said. “These placements and mentorship opportunities provide a great opportunity to work in the international development sector, while ensuring the sustainability of the work we do.”
When she reviewed the internship description for the six-month post in Guyana, she believed her expertise and studies in leadership and international development would be an asset to the organization.
Caroline was one of only 35 young professionals from across Canada to participate in the International Youth Internship Program. The highly competitive internship program, supported by Global Affairs Canada, is a two-year initiative ending March 31 aimed at giving young professionals work opportunities while supporting important projects in developing countries. Other interns completed volunteer placements in Cameroon, Laos, Nicaragua and Peru.
When describing her experiences working in developing countries with organizations to help communities, and in particular women, become more self-sufficient and resilient, Caroline says: “it’s not a sprint, it is a marathon.” She has extended her original internship by a month and hopes to return to the same region upon completion.