My history with Nepal started in 2003, when I was volunteering in the South-West of the country for six months. I was teaching English in two local schools. Looking back, I think the greatest benefit of my time there was the mutual cultural exchange. I was teaching, but I was also learning so much from the students, my colleagues, and the local community.

I have been volunteering in many sectors throughout my life, in my home country of Finland and abroad. These have ranged from coordinating international camps to helping in dog shelters. Through volunteering, I have met many special people, some of whom have become life-long friends. I have learnt how to break the ice in workshops and trainings, bargain with a rickshaw driver, and how to listen and respect others’ opinions, rather than just promote my own. I have shared my knowledge on how to warm a sauna, make a fish soup, and organize a fundraising event.  

I began my current work in Nepal just two weeks before the earthquakes of 2015. I clearly remember the time of earthquake response as very intensive but also special. It was an opportunity to learn from my colleagues and grow. I am currently working with UNFPA Nepal as part of the gender team. I provide technical assistance to a project on prevention and response to gender based violence (GBV). Together with national partner organizations, we try to raise the communities’ awareness on negative effects of GBV and its’ root cause; gender inequality. We are also strengthening GBV services and creating linkages between community and service providers so that GBV survivors can receive quality support in a timely manner. My work includes supervising project team, monitoring of implementation and developing guidelines and reports.

To change people’s perceptions and practices takes time. But to observe women and men working to make this happen, with a genuine sense of purpose and perseverance, is a great inspiration.

About the Author

Katja Vauhkonen is a UN Volunteer formerly with UNDP Nepal, now working at UNFPA Nepal as part of the gender team

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