And so the end is near…

‘And so the end is near…’ A little less than a year ago we all embarked on the adventure and opportunity of a lifetime, as UNV Interns posted all over the world. I’m sure we have all had our ups and our downs and as my contract draws to a close I have been reflecting on some of my own highlights and achievements that the past 12 months have brought. As a Documentation and Report Writing Officer with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Zimbabwe I have acquired a passion for working on Millennium Development Goal 5 – improving maternal mortality and the thirst for knowledge on the issue. This is something that I will surely take away from this experience and will hopefully continue to work in this area. So it is with great appreciation and fond memories that I recall one of my highlights…
In late November 2012 young people from around the African continent who are leaders, influencers and actors in the field of young people’s sexual and reproductive health and the issue of maternal mortality in their respective countries and beyond came together at a workshop entitled ‘Young People & Social Media Online Campaign for the Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA)’, held by the UNFPA Africa Regional Office. Simultaneously, selected young people also participated in and contributed to the workshop from their homes around Africa via the ‘Live Minutes’ on line platform.
UNFPA and the African Union Commission officially launched CARMMA in May 2009 in recognition of the daunting challenge of reducing maternal mortality in African countries by 75 per cent compared to figures for 1990, by 2015, as recommended in Millennium Development Goal 5. Over 287,000 women die each year globally from pregnancy and delivery-related complications, more than half of these deaths occur in Africa. This workshop sought to create a mechanism to engage young people with CARMMA.
I had the pleasure of attending the workshop in South Africa as the Chief Rapporteur. The workshop included sessions on population dynamics, the history of CARMMA, the actions for change that the youth representatives are carrying out in their respective countries, brainstorming and action planning for the social media campaign. The dialogue was interactive and inspirational, best practices and lessons learnt were shared openly, and one of the participants even told her story of her fight for education and overcoming her betrothal to her cousin from the age of 12 years old.
The outcome was a strategy and action plan to seize the opportunity, framework, process and expertise towards utilizing social media in delivering the Youth for CARRMA Campaign to promote and channel youth engagement in the implementation of CARMMA, with the support of the African Union and the UNFPA Africa Regional Office. In the aftermath of the workshop, momentum has been maintained with the working groups springing to action, platforms created, conference calls held, websites tested and content published. The social media campaign goes by the name of #Y4CARRMA and went live on 1 January 2013. To see all the work come together in such a tangible fashion and in such a short time period is a real credit to those involved and demonstrates the characteristics of both young people and social media – the sense of urgency, of impatience for change, and the need for information as it happens.Image

I am pictured here with the Executive Director of UNFPA, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, after a Q&A session with young people as the culmination of the workshop.

This Campaign is an opportunity for young people to contribute in a real way to a reduction in maternal mortality through sharing information and engaging in debate via a medium that is literally growing on a daily basis in Africa. #Y4CARRMA shows the progressive side to UNFPA and the United Nations, moving with the times and responding to current trends in order to make a greater impact – – follow the campaign at http://www.y4carmma.org
To play a role in this is exciting and no matter where I end up after this I will be able to see the great work continuing to unfold via social media. The last 12 months have truly been a unique experience and I have an overwhelming feeling of gratitude to all my colleagues at the UNFPA and UNV Zimbabwe Country Offices, and huge appreciation of course to Irish Aid for the funding and shortlisting me way back in November 2011. So while the curtain may be closing on this experience I feel that a door is opening and leading to… well I don’t know but I can’t wait to find out.

Emma Mulhern

Documentation and Report Writing Officer

United Nations Population Fund

I support peaceful Kenya!

And as Kenya gets closer and closer to the elections, plenty of videos supporting peace are spreading on the net. Have a look!!

UN Volunteer Nazila Vali Making a Case for Women’s Leadership

Last August, UNDP Kenya in collaboration with UN Women, the National Gender and Equality Commission, the Ministry of Gender and NDI organised a three days Regional Dialogue on Women Political Leadership.

The objective of this dialogue was to bring together women leaders from the region, namely Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana and South Africa to share and discuss women political engagement and gender equality. The Democratic Governance (DGU) Unit where I work as a UNV since February took the lead with the UNDP Gender office in NY in organising this conference that was attended by more than 300 women. My role within the DGU Team was to coordinate with the international participants, it involves thinking strategically at the women leaders that should discuss and moderate, the thematic of each sessions, the balance between international leaders experience and the women grassroots challenges. Our team worked very closely and we all helped with logistic aspects of the conference.

This conference felt within the framework of the 2010 Constitution of Kenya that opened space for women’s participation in decision-making within the three arms of government (Legislative, Executive and Judiciary) through the provision of a gender quota. It requires that no more than 2/3 of the members of each elected and appointed body shall be of the same gender.

Kenya has joined the countries of the region using constitutional reserved seats to increase women’s political participation. Kenyan’s new constitution is not only a historic landmark for the country, but a milestone in the East African women’s rights movement. As such, the new provision will be put to test at the next general election scheduled to take place in March 2013. Kenya’s next Parliament and Senate run a risk of being declared unconstitutional if at least a third of their members are not women. And this could indeed happen likewise in Egypt where last June the Parliament was declared unconstitutional. To avoid those challenges, Ministers must put their act together and bring about the proposed amendments.

The Kenyan politics have been dominated by men due to the patriarchal nature of the Kenyan society. Indeed Kenya remains behind in term of gender equality with less than 10 percent of women MPs, compared to an average of 56 percent in Rwanda, 35 in Uganda, 30 in Burundi and 38 in Ethiopia. Therefore, the provision has to be operationalised through an enabling law to achieve a minimum of 1/3 of women in the next parliament. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, political parties, parliament, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Gender, the National Gender and Equality Commission and other key institutions have important roles to play in this regard.

Furthermore, there is a need to facilitate a public consensus around the articulation of the affirmative action provision on the right as well as important role of women in political decision-making. In this respect, the media has a critical role to play. The effectiveness and numbers of women in politics can also be enhanced through a strategic partnership with the civil society organisations which is the home for the women’s movement.

In my opinion, the participation of women in decision-making roles in the public and private sectors does not only represent a must for cohesion, peace and development in the country, it is also a simple human right that has been violated for centuries. The UNDP director for Gender, Winnie Byanyima, argues that the positions set aside for women will result to more equitable development and as research has shown women’s participation in decision-making improve the quality of governance.

During the conference, some challenges have been discussed such as the lack of qualified women to fulfil the one-third promise. Women in Kenya still face many obstacles regarding access to education especially in rural areas. But personally I believe that this can only change if women take the lead and put in place structures to enable girls to have access to education. For too many years, national priorities have been seen from the lens of men and not women. This must change.

Through a video message delivered at the conference, the Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf congratulated Kenya for passing the quota in the Constitution. She said that women lack education, resources, political experience and connections to vie for office and that it is political parties and the media who make or break them. She added that we should change the hearts, minds and attitudes of those who obstruct women.

Let’s pledge to continue fighting for gender equality and women empowerment.

From Mozambique with love

Dear All,

I’ve already spent 3 months in Mozambique, and, even if in a way I feel like I’ve been here for a longer time because a lot of things happened, I also feel the time is running away. So I thought it’s the moment to share with you a bit of this experience…
I am working in a sub-office with World Food Program, which means that I am not living in a capital like most of you but I’m staying in a province,  which is Tete, (is a different one from the duty station it was supposed me to go…but this is a long story and it is not interesting now), where we work on the implementation on the field of all WFP activities identified for this area: from the joint planning with provincial and district government to the monitoring of food distribution to beneficiaries.
I feel really lucky, because this experience is giving me the opportunity to see how International Organizations (not just WFP) work is impacting citizens’ lives, actually the life of the poorest, and especially because I feel part of the transformation of a “paper” strategy into development action…which is not easy and automatic at all, but is a wonderful day-by-day challenge. I have to deal with capacity building training for the local stakeholders to improve management skills, logistic preparation to provide beneficiaries of the tools to implement their projects, complex time planning which need to be review week to week to face all the unexpected events and a lot a patience…which always help!  
Also,  the possibility to work and to learn from my Mozambican colleagues is really important: they are guiding me through the culture and the habits of this fascinating region, teaching how is “the way” to work respecting local habits in the different context, from the government to the community leaders who are as well important stakeholder to consider during the decision making.
And in the end I am also enjoying to be a part of a UNV team, composed by 7 other National UNvolunteers who are WFP hands and eyes in the districts, supporting daily base institution, implementation partners and communities, and doing the day by day follow up of activities and food distribution.
There are a lot of things I would like to write…but I don’t want to “fall” on the technical aspects of what I’m doing, but just put a bit on “the paper” and share with you the things that are making me feel richer day by day, living this experience, also through meeting challenges and difficult moments.
So, this is what I am living and what I wanted to share with you, I am curious to hear from you, impressions and feelings of ours first steps.
Hugs to all wherever in the World you are,

Francesca

UNV at WFP Mozambique  (Tete Sub-Office)

Kenya: first experiences and next elections

KENYA: My first two filed trips outside the office just a two weeks after my arrival. The first one is in Nakuru, just few hours drive from Nairobi.

Together with the team of Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery we are going to visit the projects for the recovery of the livelihoods after the Post election violences (PEV, how they like to call it here at the UN).

The last national elections of 2007/2008 in Kenya, were followed by clashes and violences, which led families and individuals to leave or lose their houses. Although the numbers are still now uncertain, there were around 670,000 people displaced and around 1,300 who died. As a consequences, in the areas affected, all the livelihood activities were stalled. Four years have passed since then. During these years, the Government, with the support  of the UNDP (and other UN agencies) have worked  on recovering the livelihoods and the lives of those people who had to leave their lands and move somewhere else. Several were the projects brought forward: first of all some camps for displaced people were build, to be able to give a house to those who had lost it, then District Business Solution Centres were established to help micro-enterprises, tools and inputs for breeding, farming and fish farming were provided, and several projects to mobilize young people took place.

In Nakuru we went to visit two camps for Internal Displaced People (IDPs, that’s how the people who lost their houses are called). In both camps, a fish farming project had been implemented. Some groups of people within the camps were provided with trainings on fish farming, they were supported with the construction of the ponds, provided with fingerlings and  fish feed.

The fingerlings were installed in May and the fish farming groups are waiting for the first cycle of production.  The project, if successful, could allow the groups to develop it and make it a stable point of the economy of the communities. The demand of fish in the surrounding area is already present, given that Nakuru and Naivasha are both quite touristic, because of the wonderful lakes and the wildlife. In the camps, we had also the chance to see some examples of businesses that were started after some trainings organized by the government. The trip was extremely interesting and it was an occasion for me to understand what we are really doing on the field.

At the end of these two days of visits, I was sent to a conference among the representative of political parties to discuss solutions on the topic of internal displacement, with an eye to the next elections. In order to carry out

a peaceful electoral campaign the parties of Kenya, under the initiative of the UNDP Kenya, have formed the Political Parties Collaborative Leaders Forum, with the aim of finding a common space where to meet and to discuss about the elections and the issues related to it. This particular conference was called to find a common understanding for durable solutions to Internal Displacement. Representative of t he Parliamentary Select Committee on IDPs and of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission were also present.

The debate was interestingly very heated. I realized how Kenyan politics is still driven by tribes issues. Despite the terrible consequences of tribalism at the last elections, the political parties are not yet able to focus on ideologies or political views. Most of the speeches were addressed to issues concerning IDPs that were still not resettled because of their geographical or ethnic provenience. Some of the speakers ended up being quite aggressive in the tone of their speeches, although I was not able to understand all of them, given that some were speaking in Swahili. On Saturday, after two days of conference, I thought I had already managed to collect lots of useful information about Kenya, but it was not finished yet.

On Monday, as soon as I stepped in the office, my supervisor informs me that I have to go to a conference down town. He doesn’t explain what is it about, only that it has something to do with our Peace Building unit. When I am close to enter the conference, I realize that it is not something small. There are decorations with the color of Kenyan flag everywhere and the amphitheater is full. As soon as I manage to sit in a corner where I am not too visible (I am 2 hours late, without knowing it), I glanced at the program. “The People’s conference: National Diversity, Ethnicity and Race”. The official opening is going to be with the Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

The debate is about tribes and sense of national identity. Scholars and researchers from different parts of the country share their opinion about the general picture of the country. Once again, it is evident how far they are from being in peace with each other. Many groups feel there is still some prejudices based on ethnicity, they feel excluded from the political life and from the development of the country.

In this scenario, the elections and the electoral campaign are not going to be easy. Some people are still full of anger because of the past: among the relatives of the victims and the ones who lost their belongings there are some who did not forgive and are still looking for revenge. Discriminated and marginalized groups are angry as well and are willing to stand in defense of their rights. Politicians and scholars are still discussing the necessity of national pride and national cohesion, but the problem is not the differences among cultures in Kenya, but the fact that politics is not national, but local. The parties are not represented equally around the country. Most of them just have offices in Nairobi and no support outside of it. Politics needs to be more inclusive.

‘Greening the One UN in Vietnam’ Campaign.

      Where are you interning and what are you focusing on?

Hello everyone! I am currently working as a Capacity Building Officer for the UNICEF country office in Viet Nam, based in Ha Noi. My programme is called the ‘Provincial Child Friendly Programme’ and aims to strengthen the capacities of provincial authorities to take into account Children’s Rights. Concretely, most of my time goes to supporting UNICEF’s research undertaken in the provinces, to preparing programme documents and reports, to developing concepts and strategies for our engagement at the decentralized level and to strengthening linkages between UNICEF and other donors who work on governance in Viet Nam.

 

Describe one specific project that you have worked on, which promoted volunteering and was successful in mobilizing people.

Together with all the other UNV’s in Ha Noi, we have committed to being ‘Green Champions’ and to making our respective offices more environmentally friendly. In Viet Nam, all the UN agencies are preparing to move into a ‘One UN Green House’ by the end of 2012 as part of the ‘Delivering as One Initiative’. Instead of waiting until then, we have decided to already start ‘greening’ our behaviours and call upon others to follow our example. As a young and motivated ‘inter-agency’ group, UNV’s can have a real impact when they coordinate their advocacy for behaviour change in their different host agencies.

This month (September) is a huge milestone because we launch our three-month ‘Greening the One UN in Viet Nam Campaign’, aiming to reduce the environmental impact of the UN’s operations in Viet Nam. As a group, we contributed to drafting the ‘Green Action Plan’, with specific targets, which will help us gain the World Wildlife Fund’s ‘Green Office Certificate’. In addition, many of the Campaign’s activities are spearheaded by Green Champion UNV’s: for example, we are organizing ‘green (i.e. vegetarian) lunches’ and green film screenings (or ‘Sgreenings’, as we like to call them). One major challenge is improving the environmental friendliness of our transport. Getting people to bike to work, when it’s 38 degrees and humidity is 98 per cent, is no easy task! But that won’t stop us (see picture).

 

Have you seen any personal growth in yourself since arriving in the field?

Certainly. It’s been a tremendous experience to live and work in such a fascinating country and not a day goes by that I don’t feel lucky to be here. With regards to personal growth, I believe it’s fair to say I have refined my intercultural skills and learnt much about Vietnamese, and by extension, South-East Asian culture and traditions.

What has been your favourite experience since arriving in the field?

One of the most interesting aspects of working in a decentralization project is that I have the opportunity to travel to the different provinces where UNICEF is active. In May I visited An Giang province, in the Mekong Delta Region for a consultation workshop on the ‘Situation Analysis of the Children of An Giang’, a comprehensive research report we are currently finalizing. The first evening our counterparts, staff from the Department of Planning and Investment, invited us to go sing karaoke with them. It was great fun and I really enjoyed the submersion into Vietnamese culture. The bad news was (ignoring my exceptionally poor singing skills) that all the songs were in Vietnamese, so not easy to sing along! Nevertheless, I gave it a shot, and our counterparts seemed to appreciate the effort. At least, I think they did.

FAO Rabat – A rich and dynamic work experience in a mix of field activities and decision maker’s meetings.

Five months after the workshop in Bonn, I feel very satisfied of my first half year as a UNV. I am really proud of working as an expert on water and environment at the Representation of the FAO in Marocco! This being my first professional experience in the UN system, and the first experience of the FAO with a UNV, the first days were not easy. There was a need to study each other, to define our exact roles and tasks! Fortunately, it didn’t take too long, largely thanks to the “savoir faire” of my Chief and the cooperation of my colleagues. After only six days I was already on the field with the Pilot Project GCP/MOR/033/SPA to “save and enhance the irrigation water in the Doukkala”. For the first time I was in touch with the farmers, trying to really understand what their needs and challenges are, something one cannot do merely by reading documents in an office. As time goes by, so do the missions: two, three, four trips to the field to check on progresses, to coordinate a project documentary, to organize a final workshop and to collect the project’s needs (ex: replacement parts, diesel tanks, market experts) My favorite part of this all is the sense of hospitality that Moroccans have.  Being invited for lunch and tea, spending time with farmers during their daily activities (playing with their children), forcing yourself to think in their ways, is something unforgettable.  At the same time, it wasn’t easy to convert and explain the farmers’ requirements and expectations during high level meetings with national and international partners and local authorities, even with the support of headquarters. The project, which started in 2007, ended last June and it was a great success. Considering it was a pilot project in the framework of the “Plan Maroc Vert” (National Moroccan strategy to improve the Value of Agriculture), the conclusions after the final workshop gained the full support of the Ministry af Agriculture and other participants. In parallel with this project I was asked to guarantee the monitoring and evaluation of another one, this time in Midelt on the Tatiouine watershed management. This project gave me the chance to work with local associations, to meet with nomads, and to see with my own eyes what impact climate changes has on forests and, consequently, on the communities’ social life. This inter-regional project is still ongoing and after the new coordinator’s arrival, we are really advancing well. New activities in the field, new partners are identified and a working group is constituted to implement and coordinate the work of the local administration. We are working hard to obtain more financial resources and support for this project. Another important dossier I am working on and really feel addicted to, is SIPAM. This is a multi-aspects project on the valorization of the agri-cultural heritage of the local communities. The pilot-site is in Imilchil. My first mission to this project included such an original experience: in the middle of the desert, I was taken down inside the khettara, a system of subsurface irrigation channels, 13 meters below the surface, scary but amazing! What I like the most? The fact that I’m always in touch with the direct beneficiaries, that I can see the results of our job with my own eyes and touch them with my hands. I’m really excited and curious about what my next six months here will bring. But I have a feeling it’ll be fantastic, inch’allah!

 

Simone Targetti Ferri Volontaire des Nations Unies Chargé de programme dans le domaine de l’eau et de l’environnement Rabat

A patch of hope for children of Fushë Kosovë

When I’ve been for the first time in the RAE district of Fushë Kosovë, I thought I was prepared enough not to remain shocked and at the same time fascinated. Driving in a warm and comfortable jeep, I didn’t have to walk on a muddy and uneven road to reach the so called “school”, where I was asked to go for an assessment visit. As soon as I shyly entered the classroom, all the bright children eyes where on me, and I couldn’t do anything apart from raising a smile: 48 kids of a wide range of ages, sitting on the bare floor, proudly trying to write their names and carefully listening to the teacher’s instructions. It was probably colder inside the classroom than outside, and the empty walls immediately made me thinking about all the colours and toys and fairy books of my childhood.Later on I was explained the problem The Ideas Partnership NGO (TIP) is addressing: according to a house-to-house survey, the TIP’s volunteers found out that a lot of children of the district were not attending schools. Inquiring about the reasons why, a big gap in the Kosovo educational system surfaced: if children don’t register for school when they are 7 or 8, they have to pass an exam to rejoin the mainstream education. But at the moment there is no provision for them to catch up and successfully pass the entrance test which should allow them to attend school. Basically they irreversibly lose chance to get education, which excludes them from the job market of the future and prevents them from improving their already miserable situation.Considering this burdensome context, TIP volunteers decided to roll up their sleeves and set up catch-up classes, in order to give them a second chance to join the mainstream educational system and to pass the exam. Being a UN Volunteer working in UNDP, I was looking forward to leaving my office for a while and experiencing directly on the field. I was moved by the every-day effort, the patience and engagement of the volunteers, who are committing their time for this valuable initiative. Thanks to several private donations, the NGO managed to obtain useful and essential items for the school, such as tables, carpet and small funds to provide kids with a yogurt and a piece of fruit every day. The day after the first visit,  UNDP and UNV jointly started procedures in order to support the project, and on Thursday 14th April, we delivered new desks and tables, notebooks, bookshelves, grammar books and stationary. What always surprises me about children, is their contagious enthusiasm:  after a loud ‘ooohhh’ appreciation for these small items provided, they allowed us – perfect strangers for them – to play and conduct an activity altogether. After only three weeks since the catch-up classes started, the school already looks much more cosy and colourful. It gives a sense of homely environment, with pictures and drawings hung everywhere.  Of course what has been done so far is not enough. Hopefully this project will be considered as a pilot project and it will be extended Kosovo-wide under the Municipalities’ competency, but at least for now it gives a patch of hope to the children of Fushë Kosovë, who are now given a possibility for an inclusive growth. 

Giulia Martin

Story of Lorena Lombardozzi from Uzbekistan

Here you can find story of Lorena Lombardozzi UNV-UNODC in Uzbekistan.


Urban Refugee Women host tea party to mark World Refugee Day. Niamh O’Sullivan in Ethiopia.

An exceptional partnership between female ambassadors to Ethiopia and urban refugee women representatives was established last week during a tea party that took place in the UNHCR offices on June16th. The Urban Refugee Women’s Association (URWA), after having been awarded funds for a project by the globally known V-day network, invited some of the female Ambassadors to celebrate their Association and their success. The event also saw the participation of spouses of diplomats and heads of mission, dignitaries from the Africa Union and members of the humanitarian community. An all female, multi-cultural event organized with the support of UNHCR Community Services to celebrate women’s empowerment and the resilience of refugee women!

25 refugee women hosted the tea party. The guests included Her Excellency, the Irish Ambassador, Sile Maguire and representatives from the Danish Embassy, the African Union, and the UNHCR and the Spouses of Diplomats and Heads of Mission.

The President of the Urban Refugee Women’s Association spoke of her gratitude to the Irish Ambassador. She was referring to the donation of $1000 from the Irish Embassy which was granted to the Urban Refugee Women’s Association in May. The fund is ear-marked for organizations that support and empower women and promote women’s rights.

“We now have our own bank account, thanks to the funding we have received indirectly from the Irish Embassy. Slowly we are taking control, organising ourselves and now we are able to support each other. We are going to provide home visits to very vulnerable refugees and establish a Mothers and Babies group.”

She also spoke of the hardship of being a refugee

“It is scary when your husband can no longer protect you, we’ve lost everything, we witnessed terrible horrors and now we are alone in Ethiopia. That is why we have come together to form this organisation. There is strength in numbers and we can share experiences, advice and support to each other”.


Her Excellency, the Irish Ambassador, Sile Maguire commented on how difficult it is to imagine the experiences of a refugee yet it’s encouraging to see the positive steps that these women are doing to help and support themselves.

Speaking at the event, HE Sile Maguire said:

“You are our sisters. It is difficult for us to imagine the horrors you have faced, we can only imagine what a refugee must endure.”

“It is inspiring to see how you have come together to form your Association, how you have decided to ‘unite’ and offer support and help to each other. In Irish we have a saying, ‘Ar scath a cheile a mhaireann na dhaoine’, which is translated as ‘we live in one another’s shelter’.  It is you, the Women’s Association, which brings real meaning to this phrase. You offer strength and support to each other and you are looking after each other.”

The Ambassador also commented on the level of interest the Irish government has on the issue of refugees.

“The Irish government is particularly interested in the issue of refugees. An example of their commitment to the cause of refugees is that the Irish government funded three international UNVs to the UNHCR to provide expertise and additional support to the services provided to help refugees.”

The Urban Refugee Women’s Association was established 2 years ago and works closely with the Irish Aid sponsored UNHCR Community Mobilizer, Ms Niamh O’Sullivan.

Facts:

Currently Ethiopia alone hosts over 100,000, refugees from conflict ridden countries such as Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

To ackowledge the plight of refugees, the UN has designated June 20th as World Refugee Day.