UNV: Volunteerism and South-South Cooperation: Building Forward Better Together

By September 14, 2021 2021 UN Day for SSC, News

Article by UN Volunteers (UNV), posted in celebration of the 2021 UN Day for South-South Cooperation. For the original article, click here.


The current COVID-19 pandemic has witnessed a boost in volunteering. Millions of volunteers have dedicated their time and skills or even risked their health and wellbeing to combat this unprecedented global crisis.

A special group of UN Volunteers from the Global South is playing an active and crucial role in strengthening solidarity among countries of the Global South, which are most impacted by the pandemic. By bringing their rich experience to enable resilient and sustainable recovery through volunteerism, they promote South-South Cooperation (SSC).

Dr Violet Mathenge, (Kenya) serves as UN Volunteer Surveillance and Emergency Risk Management Officer with WHO Botswana. ©UNV, 2021

In 2020, UNV mobilized over 1,000 UN Volunteers in 105 countries and 26 UN entities to support COVID-19 response and recovery. As of August 2021, 89 UN Volunteers from countries of the Global South are serving in the Global South in fields including fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines (COVAX), women’s empowerment to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19, entrepreneurship, small and micro businesses development and more. On the occasion of International Day for South-South Cooperation, let us dive into those volunteers’ stories and get inspired by their actions.

As our UN Volunteer Mai Abdelwahab said, “Together, we can be part of the post COVID-19 recovery volunteering.”

Sylvine Kahasha is a UN Volunteer from the Democratic Republic of Congo. After advocating for the protection and participation of women, girls and indigenous people for years, she joined UNV and started serving with the UN Development Programme Burundi in 2020.

Sylvine supports women to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on their cross-border trading activities. She also works to strengthen the leadership and participation in local development of indigenous Batwa and other vulnerable women in the country.

I volunteer to help women recover economically and resume their commercial activities. (Sylvine Kahasha)

Sylvine Kahasha (DRC) is a UN Volunteer with UNDP Burundi. ©UNV, 2020

Melvis Kimbi is from Cameroon and currently serving with WHO in Madagascar. ©UNV, 2019

Melvis Kimbi (Cameroon) and Violet Mathenge (Kenya) are currently serving with WHO in Madagascar and Botswana. They are part of the WHO/UNV Africa Women Health Champions programme to promote health and boost gender equality across 47 African countries. Their work includes amplifying critical health messages about COVID-19 and providing technical support to country health emergency preparedness and response.

I believe volunteerism isn’t just about highly skilled work, but rather about innovation and service. I would encourage anyone who can volunteer, particularly during these challenging times, to go out and lend a helping hand. (Melvis Kimbi)

Please also view this video from UN Volunteer Njobati Sylvie Vernyuy on the Africa Women Health Champions initiative.

Caroline Hungwe (Zimbabwe) serves with the Communications and Public Information Section of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), combating misinformation in South Sudan during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is proud of her role in keeping people informed about COVID-19 and promoting the efforts of UNMISS in support of government and humanitarian partners that are mitigating the spread of the virus.

Stories are critical, especially those that explore the peace and security needs of vulnerable groups such as women and children. I spotlight issues that UNMISS tries to address, giving such stories their deserved space. (Caroline Hungwe)

Caroline Hungwe (Cameroon) is a UN Volunteer with the UN Mission in South Sudan. ©UNV, 2020

UN Volunteer Project Engineer Mai Abdelwahab (Egypt) also serves with UNMISS in South Sudan. She and her team ensure the provision and upkeep of health units required by the mission in Torit, Eastern Equatorial. They monitor the construction activities of community quick impact projects, many of which were for health units this year.

COVID-19 has come to prove that you cannot survive unless you provide help, protect and guide people around you. (Mai Abdelwahab)

Ashu Orock Ernestine (Cameroon), Danai Kudya (Zimbabwe) and Francis Igiriogu (Nigeria) serve as UN Volunteer Human Rights Officers with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Liberia. They address inequalities resulting from COVID-19 collateral damage.

For example, the volunteers assisted six pregnant students to resume classes and attend the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE) and drew the attention of the authorities to this discriminatory policy. The pandemic laid bare social inequalities that might be exacerbated in the future; however, volunteers are ready to fight.

UN Volunteers serving as Human Rights Officers with the OHCHR Liberia Country Office. ©UNV, 2020

Thanks to their advocacy, many of the human rights violations monitored could be addressed, exemplified by the case of the six girls. (Simone Heri-Terrence, Deputy Representative, OHCHR)

Triangular Cooperation also played a vital role in combating the pandemic. Evgeniya Kleshcheva, a UN Volunteer fully funded by the Russian Federation, works with the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji. She is part of the inclusive growth team, supporting entrepreneurship, small and micro businesses, livelihoods and innovation in Pacific Island countries and territories.

Together with UNDP Accelerator Lab Pacific, the solevaka.org platform, government and private sector in Fiji and Vanuatu, they launched the call for applications to offer financial and technical assistance to support the project, which aims to identify and resolve socio-economic issues that the Pacific face.

We came up with an exciting concept, the COVID-19 Pacific Response: Sustainable Livelihoods Challenge, which is now showing successful results. This has great potential to contribute to recovery from the pandemic. (Evgeniya Kleshcheva)

Evgeniya Kleshcheva, a UN Volunteer funded by the Russian Federation, working with the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji. ©UNV, 2020