Sexual assault, peace corps volunteer safety key issues in nomination hearing

A Peace Corps Volunteer paints a mural on a main street with her students in the Dominican Republic. Photo by: Peace Corps

WASHINGTON — Josephine Olsen, the nominee for director of the Peace Corps, focused much of her Tuesday nomination hearing testimony on volunteer safety, addressing challenges of sexual assault and health care.

Olsen, a Peace Corps veteran, served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tunisia in the 1960s and went on to spend much of her career at the agency, serving as a country director, regional director, chief of staff, and acting director before leaving to teach at the University of Maryland where she is the director of the Center for Global Education Initiatives.

Peace Corps chief nomination met with widespread approval, relief

The announcement of nominee Josephine Olsen to lead the Peace Corps has been met with applause throughout the global development and social work communities. What can be expected from the volunteer agency under her leadership?

Her vision for the Peace Corps is to ensure it remains the “world’s preeminent volunteer agency,” recruiting the best volunteers regardless of age, where they live or walk of life, she said in the hearing. She plans to do a country portfolio review to ensure that volunteers are being sent to countries where they are needed most, have the best impact, and give the United States the best return on investment. Olsen will also prioritize keeping volunteers safe, healthy, and productive, including continuing efforts to reduce risks to volunteers and respond to victims of crime, including sexual assault, she said.

“[The] Agency’s top priorities will always remain keeping them safe healthy and productive in doing their jobs,” she said.

Olsen said she thought Peace Corps is “doing very well,” with record numbers of applicants and strong collaborations with the countries where it works, though she joked that she is obviously biased.

Peace Corps has come a long way in the last few years to create a system that greatly reduces risk of crime and sexual assault, but the agency needs to continue to focus on health support, security and risk reduction for crime and sexual assault, she said.

“If confirmed, I will focus on strong programming, strong health support, strong risk reduction and safety and security, and honoring those who return,” Olsen said.

About the author

  • Adva Saldinger

    Adva Saldinger is an Associate Editor at Devex, where she covers the intersection of business and international development, as well as U.S. foreign aid policy. From partnerships to trade and social entrepreneurship to impact investing, Adva explores the role the private sector and private capital play in development. A journalist with more than 10 years of experience, she has worked at several newspapers in the U.S. and lived in both Ghana and South Africa.