My Volunteer Journey - Fatma, a UNV working at UNHABITAT tells her story

Dec 28, 2015

I have always had a very strong sense of volunteerism, since when I was a kid. But it has always been confined to the less fortunate; the poor and the very sick. During my childhood we used to go and help at the Ocean Road hospital and orphanages, helping in cleaning and talking to the kids and the sick.

On another hand, while growing up in Tanzania, the countries of Rwanda and Burundi were going through civil war. We started to hear about refugee camps in regions near the border and what UN is doing to help them cope with their devastating situation. Before that of course, we have heard about the UN helping the citizens of Ethiopia during a period of extreme famine there.

All this put a very strong sense of volunteerism and what it can achieve although we can say that my idea of volunteerism in relation to UN and its organizations was limited to the less fortunate also.

However, my assignment with UN-Habitat’s program “Promoting Energy Efficiency in Buildings in East Africa” shed a completely new light to that idea of volunteerism. Here it was a case of volunteering my skills and expertise in an area that was lacking in Tanzania. In essence my work is mostly on capacity building and raising awareness to the professional body related to buildings as well as the general public that is the users of those buildings. In my daily work, I interact mostly with architects, engineers, developers, energy managers, academicians as well as government officials to discuss about policies, building codes, professional trainings, and other work related with energy efficiency and the construction industry.

My volunteer work has raised my awareness about how the field of engineering is viewed as a male precinct. I see people in awe when they realize that I am an engineer and that I can work just as well as men. I have also noticed the fact that I am inspiring young women and the excitement on their faces when I tell them that they can also do it.  As such, I have started mentoring and coaching those aspiring to be architects/engineers and I feel the need to go further and start a project to support female architects/engineers to give them a chance to fulfil their dreams.

It has dawned on me that with this kind of volunteerism, the Tanzanian society has not been able to utilize efficiently its available human resource to funnel changes through capacity building. This and much more can be achieved through volunteerism in Tanzania if we see it as a call of duty in improving the wellbeing and development of the society.

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