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Valentina Matvienko, Chairperson of the Federation Council, had a meeting with women leaders of volunteer projects on March 5, just before International Women's Day. The participants discussed what measures it is necessary to take to develop volunteer movement in Russia. 

According to the senator, such meetings with active and talented women representing different fields of activity held at the Federation Council have become a good tradition since the First Eurasian Women’s Forum in 2015. One of the main goals of the Forum is promotion of successful women’s projects. The speaker stresses that thanks to meetings with women in science, medicine, entrepreneurship, and those engaged in other fields many system projects have appeared. 12 of them have already been chosen to be presented at the Second Eurasian Women’s Forum. 


In fact, promotion of humanitarian and charity projects is an important topic to be covered at the forthcoming event. Within the framework of the Forum’s preparation, a Volunteer Marathon was launched countrywide. Valentina Matvienko said that the best innovation projects would also be presented at the Forum. 


According to the speaker, charity and volunteer activities contributes to unification of people, the creation of common values. President Vladimir Putin expressed the same idea in his Address to the Federal Assembly. 


As counted by the experts, today about 7 million people take part in the volunteer movement. It is interesting that women lead most part of the projects. As a rule, these projects relate to promotion of a healthy lifestyle, prevention of social orphanhood, care for sick children, creation of comfortable conditions for older persons, patriotic education, and so on. Many of the projects have already gained international recognition. For example, ‘Total Dictation’ action took place on all continents of the world last year. More than 200 thousand people took part in it. 


As noted by Valentina Matvienko, volunteering in Russia is gaining more and more momentum. It is turning from an extremely rare phenomenon into a rapidly developing social trend. For example, the Volunteers of Victory movement now comprises more than 180 thousand members. Moreover, major international events, especially those in sport, contribute to the involvement of Russians in volunteer events. 


Valentina Matvienko believes that volunteerism and mutual assistance should be inculcated in children from a young age. Participation in volunteer activities gives much experience to the younger generation. However, not only young people are interested in volunteering. Today every tenth volunteer in Russia is a person aged 72-80 years. The elderly people getting involved in this activity are called ‘silver volunteers’. It is important that they feel their being useful to society and become mentors to the younger generation. This contributes to their long living. 


As stressed by the Chairperson of the Federation Council, the government is now systematically supporting the volunteer movement. This year provided volunteers with a law, which ensures their special status and gives them the right to psychological assistance, medical and methodological support, and such benefits, as insurance, housing, and so on. The speaker says that legislative mechanisms are extremely important, but the government should act very carefully not to turn volunteerism into something bureaucratized. Otherwise, the very essence of volunteerism will be lost. 


According to the speaker, it is necessary to create an infrastructure for supporting volunteer activities at the regional level, to create resource centers in all Russia’s regions. The opportunities available thanks to the digitalisation of society should be used as well. Valentina Matvienko shared about the federal information system called Volunteers of Russia. The web-portal helps find out who needs help and what kind of assistance is required. 

At the end of her speech, the Chairperson of the Federation Council invited all those present to discuss how to make volunteer activities more effective, how to expand the participation of volunteers in Russia’s development, and how to ensure cooperation of volunteers from different countries. According to her, lawmakers are ready to provide all necessary support. 


The event also included the awarding of women winners of the first phase of the Volunteer Marathon of the Second Eurasian Women’s Forum. The best projects were prepared by Sofia Lagutinskaya (‘I Believe in a Miracle’ project), Natalia Yakunina (‘Island of Dreams’ project), Valentina Kolodkina (the All-Russian Rescue Students' Corps), Lubov Shabanova (‘Social Tourism’, ‘Safety School for the Elderly and the Disabled’, and ‘The Third Age – Time to Spread Wings’ projects), and Olga Zubkova (‘Lamp’ film festival). They received diplomas of the winners of the marathon, which allows them to take part in the Second Eurasian Women’s Forum. 

“The Volunteer Marathon is one of the several contests held in terms of the preparation of the Second Eurasian Women’s Forum. The contests helps reveal more names of vibrant women. The names of volunteers, as a rule, are completely unknown or known only to a very narrow circle of people. These people do not work for fame. They are driven solely by their hearts. However, their activities and achievements are worth being known. Volunteers should be role models charging people with positive energy”, she said. 

Just before International Women's Day an exhibition ‘Women. Mercy. Volunteering’ was opened at the Federation Council. This is the joint project by the Second Eurasian Women’s Forum and Russian News Agency TASS. The exhibition presents archival and modern photographs by TASS correspondents depicting the development of women's volunteering.

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Viktoria Yezhova, news agency of the Eurasian Women’s Community

Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov