Difference between pages "Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin" and "Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Botswana"

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In fulfilling the Peace Corps mandate to share the face of America with our host countries, we are making special efforts to ensure that our cultural and ethnic diversity is reflected in the Volunteer corps. 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 Benin, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteer behavior, lifestyles, background, and beliefs will be judged in a cultural context that may be very different from our own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics considered familiar and commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in certain host countries.  
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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.  
  
Outside of the capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What is advertised as “typical” cultural behavior or norms may also be a narrow and selective interpretation, such as the perception in some countries that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. Foreigners justly know the people of Benin for their generous hospitality; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to differences that you present. We ask you to be supportive of one another.  
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Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal. In other ways, however, it poses challenges. In Botswana, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs will be judged in a cultural context very different from our own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in Botswana.  
  
In order to ease the transition and adapt to the ways of your host country, you may need to make some temporary yet fundamental compromises with who you are as an American and as an individual. For example, women trainees and Volunteers will likely not be able to exercise the independence available to them in the United States; political discussions will 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 limits. Staff and peer support network Volunteers will lead diversity and sensitivity discussions during your pre-service training and will be on-call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.  
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Outside larger cities and towns in Botswana, residents of rural communities may 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 belief that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Botswana 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.  
  
===What Might A Volunteer Face?===
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To ease the transition and adapt to life in Botswana, 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 your pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.
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===Overview of Diversity in Botswana===
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The Peace Corps staff in Botswana recognizes the 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.
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===What Might a Volunteer Face?===
  
 
====Possible Issues for Female Volunteers====
 
====Possible Issues for Female Volunteers====
  
Benin has a traditional, patriarchal culture. However, at the community level, Beninese are learning to accept women who take professional roles or who live independently of their families. Current Volunteers advise that service is more difficult for female Volunteers due to verbal sexual harassment and the misconceptions that exist concerning male-female relationships. It is important to note that the same challenges exist for Beninese women, particularly in the schools. Peace Corps/Benin has a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment on the job. Should you encounter harassment on the job, you should inform the country director immediately.  
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To address restrictive laws and traditions of its society, Botswana has a constitution that protects women’s rights.  
  
Female Volunteers may find that living alone raises questions about their marital status. Some find that saying that they are married helps limit sexual harassment. Others have felt that they have to work harder than male Volunteers to gain the respect of host country colleagues in the workplace.  
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The country has made great strides in gender equity in the modern sector, and ministerial, senior-level government, and private-sector posts are held by women. In addition, the government has developed a national gender program to improve the lives of vulnerable women. Nevertheless, rural, less educated women at the lower end of the socioeconomic scale tend to have less authority and responsibility than men do for income, spending, and reproductive health. Although this is changing, many rural communities have not had much experience with women who take on professional roles, remain unmarried, and live away from their families. Thus, female Volunteers may experience a great deal of unwanted attention and may need to practice discretion in public. During both cross-cultural and safety training sessions, all Volunteers are provided with strategies and practice in limiting and responding to unwanted attention.  
 
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Females may encounter unwanted attention in public. While we cannot control this, we can help you develop strategies for coping. Do not hesitate to insist on learning strategies during your pre-service training. Some female Volunteers have found they need to keep a low social profile and practice discretion in public (e.g., not smoking in public or drinking in bars) to avoid developing an undesirable reputation in their community.  
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====Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color====
 
====Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color====
  
In rural sites or villages, Volunteers are usually the only foreign resident and will receive extra attention regardless of their racial or ethnic background. Volunteers of color will encounter a wide range of cross-cultural issues in Benin.  
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Most Batswana in cities and towns are aware of the different racial and ethnic groups that exist in the United States. However, this level of knowledge and understanding greatly diminishes among rural populations. African-American Volunteers may not be recognized as Americans. They may be expected to learn local languages more quickly than other Volunteers, may be accepted more readily into the culture than other Volunteers, and may be treated according to local social norms because they are assumed to be African.  
  
Most Beninese are used to seeing African Americans.  Furthermore, because of the country’s historical role and involvement in slavery, some Beninese feel some affinity with African Americans and will often joke with them or believe that they come from Benin or another African country. Beninese will sometimes assume that you speak a local language because of your skin color. Depending on your personality, you may interpret this assumption as welcome or you may find it distressing. Remember, you will not be able to readily identify the ethnicity of a Beninese by his or her language. Similarly, you should not expect that a Beninese will know that you are American, even though you are a Peace Corps Volunteer.
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Hispanic American and Asian-American Volunteers may also be perceived as not being American. Batswana may expect Asian Americans to exhibit stereotyped behavior observed in films, sometimes referred to as the “kung fu syndrome.” In addition, the presence of Asian merchants in the country may have an impact on how Asian-American Volunteers are perceived.  
 
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Like African Americans, Asian-American Volunteers have expressed frustration and disappointment at being asked their nationality. When they answer “Asian-American,some Beninese react with surprise or disbelief, saying they didn't know there were people of Asian descent in America. In Benin, there are Chinese, Indian, and Lebanese communities and Volunteers of Asian heritage may be confused with merchant classes in the eyes of some Beninese, especially in urban areas. Some Asian-American Volunteers have found that some Beninese will call them “Chinese” no matter their origins. They may be teased by children and asked if they know kung fu or karate.  
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====Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers====
 
====Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers====
  
Respect comes with age in Benin. Younger Volunteers might have to work harder than older Volunteers to be accepted as professionals by their Beninese colleagues. Older Volunteers might find that almost too much is expected of them because of their age.
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In Botswana, older members of society are viewed and treated with a great deal of respect. Issues for older Volunteers are more likely to be in relation to their younger fellow Volunteers. Older Volunteers may meet individuals in the Peace Corps community who have little understanding of or respect for the lives and experiences of senior Americans and may not be able to offer the necessary personal support. Older Volunteers, in turn, may be inclined to withdraw from full participation in order to “give the younger folks their turn,” and may be reluctant to share personal, sexual, or health concerns. They may not find appropriate role models among the Peace Corps staff or may find that younger Volunteers look to them for more advice than they feel comfortable giving. Finally, older Volunteers may need to be assertive about asking for an effective individual approach to language learning during pre-service training.  
 
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Within the Peace Corps community, older Volunteers may sometimes feel isolated, because most Volunteers in Benin are in their 20s. Older Volunteers may have difficulty finding emotional support among their fellow Volunteers. They may find that younger Volunteers expect older ones to “mother” them. (Some seniors find this a very enjoyable part of their experience, but others choose not to fill this role.)
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Older Volunteers who are used to living independent lives may at first feel frustrated by the fact that younger Beninese want to do things for them. However, many seniors come to accept this as a sign of respect and enjoy the role of providing wisdom rather than physical assistance.  
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====Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers====
 
====Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers====
  
Benin’s sexual mores are conservative and you are expected to respect them. Many people in Benin still believe that gay and lesbian relationships are wrong, and that such relationships do not exist in their country. Although you may see signs of physical intimacy among men and women in Benin, this is not necessarily a sign of a gay or lesbian relationship. Engaging in homosexual sex is against the law in Benin. Some gay and lesbian Volunteers in Benin report that they are not able to be open about their sexual orientation. In the past, gay and lesbian Volunteers have formed their own support group. You may find more helpful information at http://www.lgbrpcv.org, a website affiliated with the National Peace Corps Association that provides specific information on serving in the Peace Corps as a gay or lesbian Volunteer.
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In general, Botswana view homosexuality as immoral; it is illegal according to the country’s constitution. Homosexuality certainly exists in Botswana but not with the same level of acceptance as in the United States. Because of cultural norms, homosexual Volunteers may discover that they cannot be open about their sexual orientation and have to serve for two years without revealing to their community that they are gay. Homosexual or bisexual Volunteers may also serve for two years without meeting another homosexual or bisexual Volunteer. Lesbians, like all American women, are likely to have to deal with constant questions about boyfriends, marriage, and sex, while gay men may have to deal with machismo: talk of sexual conquests, girl watching, and dirty jokes.
  
'''See also:''' Articles about Benin on the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Peace Corps Alumni Association website at http://www.lgbrpcv.org/articles.htm
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'''See also:''' Articles about Botswana on the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Peace Corps Alumni Association website at http://www.lgbrpcv.org/articles.htm
  
 
====Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers====
 
====Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers====
  
Volunteers are frequently asked about their religious affiliation and may be invited to attend a community church. In some circles, there will be a tendency to think that all Americans are Protestants. Volunteers not in the practice of attending church may be challenged to explain their reluctance, but it is possible to politely decline if the church or religious practice is not your choice. Most Volunteers facing these issues have found effective ways to cope with these additional challenges and have come to feel quite at home in Benin.  
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Most Batswana have some religious affiliation, and many attend church regularly. Both Christian and non-Christian Volunteers may be expected to attend church with the members of their community. They may be asked to explain why they do not belong to a certain Christian denomination or may be actively recruited by a Christian group. Volunteers may not be able to adequately convey their own religious beliefs because of language or cultural barriers. This kind of doing is exactly what Batswana are doing and they are influenced by that.
 
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====Possible Issues for Volunteers with Disabilities====
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As part of the clearance process, the Peace Corps Office of Medical Services determines if disabled candidates can be selected if they are physically and emotionally capable of performing a full tour of Volunteer service in Benin without harm to themselves or interruption of their service. The Peace Corps/Benin staff will work with disabled Volunteers to make reasonable accommodations for training, housing, job sites and other aspects of their service.  
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That being said, a disabled Volunteer in Benin will face a special set of challenges. In Benin, as in other parts of the world, some people may hold prejudicial attitudes toward individuals with disabilities. Benin has virtually no physical infrastructure to accommodate people with disabilities.
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====Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities====
  
Many of the beggars in Benin are disabled people who have no skills. Some organizations provide training for the disabled, but it is usually limited to arts and crafts. Disabled Volunteers would thus face challenges in overcoming negative stereotypes and difficult physical conditions. However, they also have an opportunity to be inspirational role models for disabled Beninese and to encourage changes in attitude and infrastructure in their communities.  
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There is very little infrastructure in Botswana to accommodate individuals with disabilities. Disabled Volunteers may find living in rural communities particularly challenging. Nevertheless, the Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services determined that you were physically and emotionally capable of performing a full tour of Volunteer service in Botswana without unreasonable risk to yourself or interruption of your service. Peace Corps/Botswana staff will work with disabled Volunteers to make reasonable accommodations in projects, training, housing, job sites, and other areas to enable them to serve safely and effectively.  
  
  
[[Category:Benin]]
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[[Category:Botswana]]

Revision as of 14:10, 7 December 2015

Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues by Country
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.


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, it poses challenges. In Botswana, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs will be judged in a cultural context very different from our own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in Botswana.

Outside larger cities and towns in Botswana, residents of rural communities may 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 belief that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Botswana 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 Botswana, 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 your pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.

Overview of Diversity in Botswana

The Peace Corps staff in Botswana recognizes the 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.

What Might a Volunteer Face?

Possible Issues for Female Volunteers

To address restrictive laws and traditions of its society, Botswana has a constitution that protects women’s rights.

The country has made great strides in gender equity in the modern sector, and ministerial, senior-level government, and private-sector posts are held by women. In addition, the government has developed a national gender program to improve the lives of vulnerable women. Nevertheless, rural, less educated women at the lower end of the socioeconomic scale tend to have less authority and responsibility than men do for income, spending, and reproductive health. Although this is changing, many rural communities have not had much experience with women who take on professional roles, remain unmarried, and live away from their families. Thus, female Volunteers may experience a great deal of unwanted attention and may need to practice discretion in public. During both cross-cultural and safety training sessions, all Volunteers are provided with strategies and practice in limiting and responding to unwanted attention.

Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color

Most Batswana in cities and towns are aware of the different racial and ethnic groups that exist in the United States. However, this level of knowledge and understanding greatly diminishes among rural populations. African-American Volunteers may not be recognized as Americans. They may be expected to learn local languages more quickly than other Volunteers, may be accepted more readily into the culture than other Volunteers, and may be treated according to local social norms because they are assumed to be African.

Hispanic American and Asian-American Volunteers may also be perceived as not being American. Batswana may expect Asian Americans to exhibit stereotyped behavior observed in films, sometimes referred to as the “kung fu syndrome.” In addition, the presence of Asian merchants in the country may have an impact on how Asian-American Volunteers are perceived.

Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers

In Botswana, older members of society are viewed and treated with a great deal of respect. Issues for older Volunteers are more likely to be in relation to their younger fellow Volunteers. Older Volunteers may meet individuals in the Peace Corps community who have little understanding of or respect for the lives and experiences of senior Americans and may not be able to offer the necessary personal support. Older Volunteers, in turn, may be inclined to withdraw from full participation in order to “give the younger folks their turn,” and may be reluctant to share personal, sexual, or health concerns. They may not find appropriate role models among the Peace Corps staff or may find that younger Volunteers look to them for more advice than they feel comfortable giving. Finally, older Volunteers may need to be assertive about asking for an effective individual approach to language learning during pre-service training.

Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers

In general, Botswana view homosexuality as immoral; it is illegal according to the country’s constitution. Homosexuality certainly exists in Botswana but not with the same level of acceptance as in the United States. Because of cultural norms, homosexual Volunteers may discover that they cannot be open about their sexual orientation and have to serve for two years without revealing to their community that they are gay. Homosexual or bisexual Volunteers may also serve for two years without meeting another homosexual or bisexual Volunteer. Lesbians, like all American women, are likely to have to deal with constant questions about boyfriends, marriage, and sex, while gay men may have to deal with machismo: talk of sexual conquests, girl watching, and dirty jokes.

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

Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers

Most Batswana have some religious affiliation, and many attend church regularly. Both Christian and non-Christian Volunteers may be expected to attend church with the members of their community. They may be asked to explain why they do not belong to a certain Christian denomination or may be actively recruited by a Christian group. Volunteers may not be able to adequately convey their own religious beliefs because of language or cultural barriers. This kind of doing is exactly what Batswana are doing and they are influenced by that.

Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities

There is very little infrastructure in Botswana to accommodate individuals with disabilities. Disabled Volunteers may find living in rural communities particularly challenging. Nevertheless, the Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services determined that you were physically and emotionally capable of performing a full tour of Volunteer service in Botswana without unreasonable risk to yourself or interruption of your service. Peace Corps/Botswana staff will work with disabled Volunteers to make reasonable accommodations in projects, training, housing, job sites, and other areas to enable them to serve safely and effectively.