Difference between pages "Russia" and "Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger"

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There are two Peace Corps/Russia administrative units: [[Russia West]] and [[Russia East]].
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{{Diversity_and_cross-cultural_issues_by_country}}
The Russia West office is located in Moscow and supervises the Volunteers located from
+
In fulfilling the Peace Corps’ mandate to share the face of America with our host countries, we are making special efforts to see that all of America’s richness is reflected in the Volunteer corps. More Americans of color are serving in today’s Peace Corps than at any time in recent years.  Differences in race, ethnic background, age, religion, and sexual orientation are expected and welcomed among our Volunteers. Part of the Peace Corps’ mission is to help dispel any notion that Americans are all of one origin or race and to establish that each of us is as thoroughly American as the other despite our many differences.  
the western borders of Russia to the oblast of Krasnoyarsk in the east. The Russia East
+
office, located in Vladivostok, supervises Volunteers from the Irkust oblast to the eastern
+
shoreline including Sakhalin Island. The country director is located in Moscow and a
+
deputy director manages the Vladivostok office.
+
  
 +
Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal. In other ways, however, our diversity poses challenges. In Niger, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs are judged in a cultural context very different from their own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in Niger.
  
[[Image:Rs-map.gif|400px|right]]
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Outside of Niger’s capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What people view as typical American behavior or norms may be a misconception, such as the perception that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Niger are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to cultural differences that you present.  
{{TOCright}}
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'''Status:''' Presently Inactive<br>
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To ease the transition and adapt to life in Niger, you may need to make some temporary, yet fundamental compromises in how you present yourself as an American and as an individual.  For example, female trainees and Volunteers may not be able to exercise the independence available to them in the United States; political discussions need to be handled with great care; and some of your personal beliefs may best remain undisclosed. You will need to develop techniques and personal strategies for coping with these and other limitations. The Peace Corps staff will lead diversity and sensitivity discussions during pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.
'''Program Dates:''' 1992-2003<br>
+
'''Volunteers Served:''' 729
+
  
 +
===Overview of Diversity in Niger ===
  
 +
The Peace Corps staff in Niger recognizes adjustment issues that come with diversity and will endeavor to provide support and guidance. During pre-service training, several sessions will be held to discuss diversity and coping mechanisms. We look forward to having male and female Volunteers from a variety of races, ethnic groups, ages, religions, and sexual orientations, and hope that you will become part of a diverse group of Americans who take pride in supporting one another and demonstrating the richness of American culture.
  
Russia is the largest country in the world measuring 6.5 million square miles. It is 1.8
+
A challenge for Volunteers from groups with less representation in the Peace Corps may be the lack of a common background with other Volunteers in Niger.  
times the size of the United States. After perestroika and the collapse of the former
+
Soviet Union in 1990, the Russian Government implemented a series of major reforms
+
including the introduction of free-market policies, the elimination of most price controls,
+
the reduction of budget subsidies to promote privatization of state-owned enterprises, and
+
the delegation of more responsibilities to local governments. This painful political,
+
social, and economic transformation continues today.
+
  
The Peace Corps entered Russia in 1992, bringing Volunteers to assist the development
+
Currently, the group of Volunteers in Niger is fairly homogenous: relatively young (mostly between 22 and 30) and largely Caucasian and middle class. Volunteers who have expressed a need for special support include those who are older than the majority, those who belong to minority ethnic groups, and those who are homosexual. If you are in such a category, you should come prepared to cope with being possibly the only senior, African American, Native American, Hispanic American, Asian American, Jew, gay, or lesbian in your training group or in the country.  
of business in Russia. The Peace Corps programs in Russia were administered out of
+
three offices: one in Saratov, one in Moscow (which did not have Volunteers), and the
+
third in Vladivostok—each with independent operating budgets and staff. In 1995, TEFL
+
Volunteers came to assist university English programs. Also in 1995, the Saratov office
+
closed, and the staff and budget for Saratov and Moscow consolidated in Moscow. There
+
are two Peace Corps/Russia administrative units: Russia West and Russia East. The
+
Russia West office is located in Moscow and the staff supervises the Volunteers located
+
from the western borders of Russia to the Krasnoyarsk oblast in the east. The Russia East
+
staff with an office located in Vladivostok supervises Volunteers from the Irkust oblast
+
near Lake Baikal to the eastern shoreline including Sakhalin Island. The country director
+
is located in Moscow and a deputy director manages the Vladivostok office.
+
  
After the market collapse of 1998, the value of the ruble dropped. In August 1998, the
+
===What Might a Volunteer Face? ===
exchange rate was 6.5 rubles to the dollar. It fell to 25 rubles to the dollar in 1999.
+
During our visit, the exchange rate averaged 30 rubles to the dollar. As the government
+
removes subsidies to services such as transportation, increased costs are affecting Peace
+
Corps operations in Russia.
+
  
The Russia programs were interrupted in 1998 when no Trainees entered Russia, because
+
====Possible Issues for Female Volunteers ====
visas were not granted. However, the Volunteers already in country were allowed to
+
complete their service, and the Peace Corps staff remained intact. In 1999, the
+
governmental sponsorship of the Peace Corps moved from the Ministry of Foreign
+
Affairs to the Ministry of Education.
+
  
Russians are highly educated; the official literacy rate is 98%. The Russian education
+
Women’s roles are very distinct in Nigerien culture. Women are charged with caring for the family and work long, hard hours to prepare food, obtain water, and rear children. In addition, women do not enjoy the same level of equality as most women in the United States do. Few are educated—only 8 percent of women in Niger are literate—and very few hold responsible positions in government or other organizations. Many men have several wives. In strict Muslim households, especially in the eastern part of the country, women are sometimes cloistered (i.e., required to stay in their homes unless accompanied by their husband). Certain physically challenging tasks, including pounding millet and drawing water, are considered exclusively women’s work and are not done by men. These cultural practices can be shocking to some Volunteers. However, almost all find that they can work successfully with both women and men in Niger.  
system ranks among the best in the world. It is a highly regulated system with
+
examinations for students and strict credentialing requirements for teachers. Education is
+
free and compulsory until the age of seventeen.
+
  
Increasingly, Russians identify English language proficiency as an important step to
+
Female Volunteers have much more freedom than Nigerien women and are not expected to adhere strictly to gender roles. This provides them with a unique perspective on Nigerien life. As foreign women, they are allowed to participate in both male and female activities, whereas male Volunteers are limited to socializing only with other men. This does not mean, however, that female Volunteers are entirely free of expected gender roles. Although a female Volunteer is more accepted by men, she is still a woman and therefore considered different. For example, female Volunteers must keep their knees covered, with either long skirts or baggy pants.  
regaining footholds in international trade, technology, information sharing, and study
+
abroad. This has led to a demand for English language and business English instruction
+
reflected in the fact that 75% of all students choose it as their first foreign language.
+
Because of this extraordinary demand, and because Russian teachers of English have
+
been isolated from native speakers, there is a need for assistance in teaching English.
+
Volunteers who do not have teaching credentials or teaching experience feel at a
+
disadvantage among their host country teaching colleagues. Russia training strains to
+
overcome the discrepancy between the training and experience of Russian teachers of
+
English and the training and experience of TEFL Volunteers.
+
  
Currently, 81% of the Volunteers in both Russia program assignments concentrate on
+
Nigerien women usually marry between the ages of 13 and 18, unless they reside in cities. As a single woman living alone in a community, you may be approached by men who wish to court or date you. But there is less need for concern regarding sexual harassment or assault in Niger than in some other countries. Nigerien culture greatly minimizes physical contact because of the influence of Islam, and the chief of a village will look out for a female as he would a daughter. Nevertheless, it is important to keep your relations as platonic as possible to ensure good working relationships with people in your community.  
Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). See Table 1. The Russia West
+
Volunteers are assigned to TEFL projects and business education. In the Russia East program, Volunteers are assigned to TEFL—two Volunteers remain in an environment
+
project and two in business education. Both the business education and the environment
+
projects in the Russia East program have had their last Volunteer input.
+
Russia TEFL Volunteers teach at several levels of the Russian educational system.
+
Volunteers with credentials are assigned to pedagogical institutes for teacher training,
+
Volunteers with advanced degrees go to universities, and most Volunteers go to
+
secondary schools or to “colleges” or technical schools. A few Volunteers work in
+
primary schools in order to have a full teaching schedule. Most of the teacher training,
+
university, and secondary school assignments are in urban centers, but Volunteers who
+
teach at some secondary schools and the primary level may be assigned to more rural
+
settings. In the Russia West program, Volunteers with a business background are
+
assigned to teach business English at universities or at the technical colleges.
+
Providing support is logistically difficult in Russia. In the 1998 PPA Worldwide Survey,
+
53% of the Russia East Volunteers and 69% of the Russia West Volunteers reported that
+
it took 10 or more hours to travel to their Peace Corps office; 35% of Volunteers in the
+
EMA region and 26% of Volunteers worldwide reported 10 or more hours to reach their
+
Peace Corps offices. In some instances, communication is unavailable, difficult, or
+
requires travel to a larger urban center. Email capabilities are available to most of the
+
Volunteers assigned to urban or regional centers, but not to Volunteers in the smaller
+
rural or village sites. Both posts plan to place more Volunteer in smaller cities and rural
+
areas, so the staff must adjust the site selection and development process and Volunteer
+
support accordingly.
+
  
 +
====Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color ====
  
 +
People of color may confront special challenges in Niger. One of the most common is being mistaken for someone from your race’s or ethnic group’s country of origin. Along with this, Nigeriens may not believe that you are a U.S. citizen, as the majority of people from the United States they have seen or heard about are of European descent.
  
==Volunteer Work==
+
African-American Volunteers have found that being black in Africa has advantages as well as challenges. You may be more easily accepted by your community, since you are not visibly different and thereby blend in more. However, villagers’ expectations may be higher because of your race. They may expect you to be more like them and not afford you the same allowances in language learning and cultural adaptation that they grant to your white peers. In public places, you may be taken for Nigerien and thus expected to conform to cultural norms, such as the Muslim dress code for women. Some African-American Volunteers have struggled with being told by their villagers that they are not truly black.
  
{| border="1" cellpadding="5" cellspacing="0"
+
There is a support system among Volunteers to help you adjust to similar issues in Niger.  
|-
+
| align="center" | '''[[Sector]]''' || '''[[Assignment]]''' || '''[[Beg. Yr]]''' || '''[[End. Yr]]'''
+
|-
+
| rowspan="3" align="center"| '''[[Business]]'''
+
| [[Business Advising]]
+
| [[1997]]
+
| [[2001]]
+
|-
+
| [[Business Development]]
+
| [[1997]]
+
| [[2001]]
+
|-
+
| [[NGO Advising]]
+
| [[1999]]
+
| [[1999]]
+
|-
+
| rowspan="3" align="center"| '''[[Education]]'''
+
| [[English Teacher]]
+
| [[1996]]
+
| [[2001]]
+
|-
+
| [[English Teacher Trainer]]
+
| [[1996]]
+
| [[2001]]
+
|-
+
| [[Univ. English Teaching]]
+
| [[1997]]
+
| [[2001]]
+
|-
+
|}
+
  
 +
====Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers ====
  
===Business Development===
+
There are and have been Volunteers over age 40 in Niger.  The Peace Corps welcomes the experience and special skills of older Volunteers. Like other Volunteers, you should be prepared for the harsh climate and basic living conditions, and need to take special care of your health because of the lack of medical facilities in Nigerien villages. Because there are so few older Volunteers in Niger, you may find yourself missing the company of people of similar age.  
Peace Corps Volunteers work to nurture business development by providing business education, consulting, and support to government officials, entrepreneurs, business institutes, schools, and NGOs. One Volunteer collaborated with Russian business owners, business professors, U.S. technical assistance providers, and fellow Volunteers to produce a series of marketing videos based on Russian case studies. These videos will be used in seminars and workshops for Russian entrepreneurs.
+
  
Volunteers have also created the University of Alaska's Russian-American Business Center, which works to develop the business skills of female entrepreneurs as well as offering workshops on business planning over the Internet. Business Volunteers provide a wide range of seminars and workshops for the management and staff of Russian NGOs. A Volunteer-developed NGO training course is being incorporated into the course offerings of the Volga-Vyatka Academy of Public Service, which trains government officials in the Volga region.
+
====Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers====
  
===Education===
+
Nigerien culture has been described as homophobic, and gay, lesbian, and bisexual Volunteers may find it difficult to serve here. Because of the negative attitudes regarding homosexuality, it would very difficult to maintain a positive working relationship with villagers and be open about your sexual orientation. You are likely to find a support system within the Volunteer group, but you are unlikely to be able to be open outside that circle.  
Volunteers were able to work in elementary, secondary, and higher-education schools. As Russian English teachers continue to leave local schools to take higher paying positions in the private sector, the Peace Corps is focusing its efforts on training the next generation of Russian English teachers. Russia's economic problems have made it difficult for the Ministry of Education to provide modern textbooks to schools, many of which are still using Soviet textbooks containing anti-American propaganda. In Western Russia, Volunteers authored five textbooks that were published regionally at low cost.
+
  
Volunteers also work with students at the high school level. Volunteers in Western Russia conducted a two-week summer immersion program called "Camp America" for over 100 teenagers. In the Russian Far East village of Arsneniev, a Volunteer founded the first English-language newspaper for teens. This for-profit newspaper is written by advanced students from different schools, who are learning layout design, marketing and editing. The profits from the paper provide revenue for new English materials.
+
'''See also:''' Articles about Niger on the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Peace Corps Alumni Association website at http://www.lgbrpcv.org/articles.htm
  
In the Russian Far East, university TEFL volunteers participated in regional conferences for language learning often working with the Russian FEELTA (Far Eastern English Language Teaching Association) and the American ELF (English Language Fellows) programs.
+
====Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers ====
  
===Environment===
+
Islam is the predominant cultural influence in Niger. It arrived beginning in the 12th century, and more than 90 percent of the population are practicing Muslims. Although there are a few militant Islamic groups in the country, the government has been able to prevent incidents of violence.  The government is officially secular, and other religions are well tolerated. There are some 400 Christian missionaries in the country, most of them Americans. Volunteers are free to practice their own religion in Niger as long as they do not engage in proselytizing. Note, however, that there are no Christian churches outside major towns.  
The Environment program is located in the Russian Far East, an area similar to the Pacific Northwest of the United States. The incredible natural beauty of this area provides motivation for increasing environmental awareness. Environmental Education Volunteers contribute to the growing environmental preservation movement through their work in schools, extra-curricular environmental centers, NGOs, and nature preserves. One Volunteer organized the youth in his village to construct solar dehydrators, which were used by local farmers to dry herbs and mushrooms for the winter.
+
  
Volunteers are assisting NGOs with grant proposal writing, organizational development, and fundraising techniques. A Volunteer in Vladivostok helped the Resource Center for Environmental Education, a local NGO, successfully implement a proposal to send several Center members and a film technician to the United States to make a documentary about outdoor education. The film will be shown on Russian television and used in seminars with other environmental NGOs.
+
Nigeriens may inquire about your religion out of curiosity or try to influence you to become Muslim. However, this is not so much because they object to other religions as because they are concerned (like those of many religions) for your afterlife, as they believe one cannot go to heaven unless one practices the “right” religion.  
  
==Peace Corps News==
+
====Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities ====
  
Current events relating to Peace Corps are also available by [[News | country of service]] or [[News by state|your home state]]
+
As a disabled Volunteer in Niger, you may find that you face a special set of challenges. In Niger, as in other parts of the world, some people hold prejudicial attitudes toward individuals with disabilities and may discriminate against them. And there is very little of the infrastructure to accommodate individuals with disabilities that has been developed in the United States.
  
''The following is automatic RSS feed of Peace Corps news for this country.''<br><rss title=on desc=off>http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&ned=us&scoring=n&q=%22peace+corps%22+%22russia%22&output=rss|charset=UTF-8|short|date=M d</rss>
+
The Peace Corps program in Niger focuses on rural villages and small towns, which means it would be extraordinarily difficult, as well as unsafe, for anyone with a serious physical handicap to live in rural Niger. Even in Niamey and regional capitals, there are no public accommodations for people with disabilities.  
  
<br>'''[http://peacecorpsjournals.com PEACE CORPS JOURNALS]'''<br>''( As of {{CURRENTDAYNAME}} {{CURRENTMONTHNAME}} {{CURRENTDAY}}, {{CURRENTYEAR}} )''<rss title=off desc=off>http://peacecorpsjournals.com/rss/rs/blog/50.xml|charset=UTF-8|short|max=10</rss>
+
That being said, as part of the medical clearance process, the Peace Corps Office of Medical Services determined that you were physically and emotionally capable, with or without reasonable accommodation, to perform a full tour of Volunteer service in Niger without unreasonable risk of harm to yourself or interruption of your service. The Peace Corps/Niger staff will work with disabled Volunteers to make reasonable accommodations for them in their training, housing, job sites, or in other areas to enable them to serve safely and effectively.  
  
==External Links==
+
[[Category:Niger]]
[http://www.peacecorps.gov/kids/world/europemed/rus_business.html Peace Corps Kids World: Russia]<br>
+
[http://archives.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/europe/12/28/peace.corps/index.html CNN.com: Russia kicks out U.S. Peace Corps (12/28/2002)]
+
 
+
 
+
==See also==
+
* [[Volunteers who served in Russia]]
+
* [[Inspector General Reports]]
+
 
+
==External links==
+
* [http://www.peacecorpsjournals.com/rs.html Peace Corps Journals - Russia]
+
 
+
[[Category:Russia]] [[Category:Eastern Europe and Central Asia]]
+
[[Category:Country]]
+
[[Category:Inactive]]
+

Revision as of 22:24, 12 March 2009

Diversity and cross-cultural issues in [[{{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger| |7}}]]
In fulfilling the Peace Corps’ mandate to share the face of America with their host countries, Peace Corps is making special efforts to see that all of America’s richness is reflected in the Volunteer corps. More Americans of color are serving in today’s Peace Corps than at any time in recent years. Differences in race, ethnic background, age, religion, and sexual orientation are expected and welcomed among our Volunteers. Part of the Peace Corps’ mission is to help dispel any notion that Americans are all of one origin or race and to establish that each of us is as thoroughly American as the other despite our many differences.
  • [[Packing list for {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger| |7}}]]
  • [[Training in {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger| |7}}]]
  • [[Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger| |7}}]]
  • [[Health care and safety in {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger| |7}}]]
  • [[Diversity and cross-cultural issues in {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger| |7}}]]
  • [[FAQs about Peace Corps in {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger| |7}}]]
  • [[History of the Peace Corps in {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger| |7}}]]
See also:
[[Category:{{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger| |7}}]]

In fulfilling the Peace Corps’ mandate to share the face of America with our host countries, we are making special efforts to see that all of America’s richness is reflected in the Volunteer corps. More Americans of color are serving in today’s Peace Corps than at any time in recent years. Differences in race, ethnic background, age, religion, and sexual orientation are expected and welcomed among our Volunteers. Part of the Peace Corps’ mission is to help dispel any notion that Americans are all of one origin or race and to establish that each of us is as thoroughly American as the other despite our many differences.

Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal. In other ways, however, our diversity poses challenges. In Niger, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs are judged in a cultural context very different from their own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in Niger.

Outside of Niger’s capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What people view as typical American behavior or norms may be a misconception, such as the perception that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Niger are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to cultural differences that you present.

To ease the transition and adapt to life in Niger, you may need to make some temporary, yet fundamental compromises in how you present yourself as an American and as an individual. For example, female trainees and Volunteers may not be able to exercise the independence available to them in the United States; political discussions need to be handled with great care; and some of your personal beliefs may best remain undisclosed. You will need to develop techniques and personal strategies for coping with these and other limitations. The Peace Corps staff will lead diversity and sensitivity discussions during pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.

Overview of Diversity in Niger

The Peace Corps staff in Niger recognizes adjustment issues that come with diversity and will endeavor to provide support and guidance. During pre-service training, several sessions will be held to discuss diversity and coping mechanisms. We look forward to having male and female Volunteers from a variety of races, ethnic groups, ages, religions, and sexual orientations, and hope that you will become part of a diverse group of Americans who take pride in supporting one another and demonstrating the richness of American culture.

A challenge for Volunteers from groups with less representation in the Peace Corps may be the lack of a common background with other Volunteers in Niger.

Currently, the group of Volunteers in Niger is fairly homogenous: relatively young (mostly between 22 and 30) and largely Caucasian and middle class. Volunteers who have expressed a need for special support include those who are older than the majority, those who belong to minority ethnic groups, and those who are homosexual. If you are in such a category, you should come prepared to cope with being possibly the only senior, African American, Native American, Hispanic American, Asian American, Jew, gay, or lesbian in your training group or in the country.

What Might a Volunteer Face?

Possible Issues for Female Volunteers

Women’s roles are very distinct in Nigerien culture. Women are charged with caring for the family and work long, hard hours to prepare food, obtain water, and rear children. In addition, women do not enjoy the same level of equality as most women in the United States do. Few are educated—only 8 percent of women in Niger are literate—and very few hold responsible positions in government or other organizations. Many men have several wives. In strict Muslim households, especially in the eastern part of the country, women are sometimes cloistered (i.e., required to stay in their homes unless accompanied by their husband). Certain physically challenging tasks, including pounding millet and drawing water, are considered exclusively women’s work and are not done by men. These cultural practices can be shocking to some Volunteers. However, almost all find that they can work successfully with both women and men in Niger.

Female Volunteers have much more freedom than Nigerien women and are not expected to adhere strictly to gender roles. This provides them with a unique perspective on Nigerien life. As foreign women, they are allowed to participate in both male and female activities, whereas male Volunteers are limited to socializing only with other men. This does not mean, however, that female Volunteers are entirely free of expected gender roles. Although a female Volunteer is more accepted by men, she is still a woman and therefore considered different. For example, female Volunteers must keep their knees covered, with either long skirts or baggy pants.

Nigerien women usually marry between the ages of 13 and 18, unless they reside in cities. As a single woman living alone in a community, you may be approached by men who wish to court or date you. But there is less need for concern regarding sexual harassment or assault in Niger than in some other countries. Nigerien culture greatly minimizes physical contact because of the influence of Islam, and the chief of a village will look out for a female as he would a daughter. Nevertheless, it is important to keep your relations as platonic as possible to ensure good working relationships with people in your community.

Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color

People of color may confront special challenges in Niger. One of the most common is being mistaken for someone from your race’s or ethnic group’s country of origin. Along with this, Nigeriens may not believe that you are a U.S. citizen, as the majority of people from the United States they have seen or heard about are of European descent.

African-American Volunteers have found that being black in Africa has advantages as well as challenges. You may be more easily accepted by your community, since you are not visibly different and thereby blend in more. However, villagers’ expectations may be higher because of your race. They may expect you to be more like them and not afford you the same allowances in language learning and cultural adaptation that they grant to your white peers. In public places, you may be taken for Nigerien and thus expected to conform to cultural norms, such as the Muslim dress code for women. Some African-American Volunteers have struggled with being told by their villagers that they are not truly black.

There is a support system among Volunteers to help you adjust to similar issues in Niger.

Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers

There are and have been Volunteers over age 40 in Niger. The Peace Corps welcomes the experience and special skills of older Volunteers. Like other Volunteers, you should be prepared for the harsh climate and basic living conditions, and need to take special care of your health because of the lack of medical facilities in Nigerien villages. Because there are so few older Volunteers in Niger, you may find yourself missing the company of people of similar age.

Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers

Nigerien culture has been described as homophobic, and gay, lesbian, and bisexual Volunteers may find it difficult to serve here. Because of the negative attitudes regarding homosexuality, it would very difficult to maintain a positive working relationship with villagers and be open about your sexual orientation. You are likely to find a support system within the Volunteer group, but you are unlikely to be able to be open outside that circle.

See also: Articles about Niger on the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Peace Corps Alumni Association website at http://www.lgbrpcv.org/articles.htm

Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers

Islam is the predominant cultural influence in Niger. It arrived beginning in the 12th century, and more than 90 percent of the population are practicing Muslims. Although there are a few militant Islamic groups in the country, the government has been able to prevent incidents of violence. The government is officially secular, and other religions are well tolerated. There are some 400 Christian missionaries in the country, most of them Americans. Volunteers are free to practice their own religion in Niger as long as they do not engage in proselytizing. Note, however, that there are no Christian churches outside major towns.

Nigeriens may inquire about your religion out of curiosity or try to influence you to become Muslim. However, this is not so much because they object to other religions as because they are concerned (like those of many religions) for your afterlife, as they believe one cannot go to heaven unless one practices the “right” religion.

Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities

As a disabled Volunteer in Niger, you may find that you face a special set of challenges. In Niger, as in other parts of the world, some people hold prejudicial attitudes toward individuals with disabilities and may discriminate against them. And there is very little of the infrastructure to accommodate individuals with disabilities that has been developed in the United States.

The Peace Corps program in Niger focuses on rural villages and small towns, which means it would be extraordinarily difficult, as well as unsafe, for anyone with a serious physical handicap to live in rural Niger. Even in Niamey and regional capitals, there are no public accommodations for people with disabilities.

That being said, as part of the medical clearance process, the Peace Corps Office of Medical Services determined that you were physically and emotionally capable, with or without reasonable accommodation, to perform a full tour of Volunteer service in Niger without unreasonable risk of harm to yourself or interruption of your service. The Peace Corps/Niger staff will work with disabled Volunteers to make reasonable accommodations for them in their training, housing, job sites, or in other areas to enable them to serve safely and effectively.