Leaving the environment from time to time allows a return with renewed energy and patience.
Social Policy Specialist, UNICEF, Kampala, Uganda

Living and working within the United Nations system

My motivation

Having grown up constantly travelling in different developing countries, starting a career in international cooperation (IC) felt natural. It is what always interested me and the main reason why I chose to study international relations. My position is a continuation of my journey through various organisations of the multilateral system. UNICEFUnited Nations Children's Fund ’s mandate particularly fascinates me, and after almost five years in regional UN offices in Bangkok, I wanted to return to a country office.

My career path

From a professional perspective, I am still open to different experiences and finding or ‘fine-tuning’ my path.

I do believe that my early volunteer and internship experiences and especially my mission as a UN Youth Volunteer with UNDPUnited Nations Development Programme in Bhutan were essential in deciding to pursue a career in IC. With my varied experience in Asia and more recently also in Africa, I have matured as a professional and welcome additional responsibilities and challenges.

My duties

In my current position at UNICEF Uganda, I focus on engaging with the government and other key stakeholders on social protection and child rights governance.
During my time as a NETI in DRC, I managed activities in support of our public finance for children and policy research and analysis agenda. I also undertook regular field missions especially to the south of the country to support the implementation of our programmes and support colleagues in the field. It was always interesting and captivating to witness the situation outside of the capital city Kinshasa.

The pros and cons

I enjoy working at the county level again and having the opportunity to establish partnerships and collaborate with government stakeholders as well as representatives from civil society, independent human rights institutions and bilateral development agencies. Within our office, there is also great diversity and colleagues from varied backgrounds. I enjoy working with people and joining efforts towards achieving results, including the challenges that this brings.  Work can of course also be challenging and there are also processes that need to be followed, which can take more time and effort, yet are necessary and important.

What I’ve learnt

Whenever I move to a new office and country, my learning curve tends to be the steepest. It takes time to familiarize myself with the context and build relations, but this step is key in the work I do which focuses on policy. The more practice one gets at moving around and settling in into new places and offices, the better one gets. My strategy tends to focus on observing and listening initially and then filling the gaps and providing support where needed. My position in the DRC was my first post with UNICEF and I benefited from great support through the NETI programme. This included mentoring and coaching, which I decided to continue independently. This support enabled me to grow into my position very quickly.

Life in Kampala

Relocating constantly from one country to another is exciting but also comes with a few downsides (many of which are logistical): moving to a new place, getting used to a new work environment, reintegrating into new communities, forming new friendships... This can be challenging, but at the same time it is what drives me.
Moving to the DRC was a little more complicated due to the more complex context including security restrictions. Therefore, I found that taking breaks every few months would help me reenergize and return with renewed commitment and patience. 

I moved to Kampala in August 2016, and as many friends and colleagues say, “Uganda is Africa for Beginners” so settling in here has been smooth. I definitely recommend it – to live or visit! The biggest drawback is traffic.

My next steps

I am happy where I currently am – work wise and also on a personal level. I hope to be able to build on the foundation I have established in the past year to strengthen UNICEF’s work on social protection and child rights governance in Uganda.

My advice to those wishing to start their professional life in IC

Being open minded and flexible are key attributes. Moving abroad and working in IC can be very exciting, but it also comes with challenges. I encourage you to study, travel, and volunteer or work abroad even during the studies. Take assignments where you can learn and in places you want to discover even if it may not be the ideal or dream job just yet. My advice is that as long as it helps you develop and build towards your goals and allows you to stand for your values, it is worth considering. If you don’t like it, change.  Initiatives such as the UN Youth Volunteers Programme and JPOJunior Professional Officer or Associate Expert positions are great opportunities to gain relevant experience and increase your chances to for future positions within the UN system.

Portrait updated in March 2018




Social Policy Specialist within the NETI Programme, UNICEF, Kampala, Uganda

Master in International Relations, Graduate Institute Geneva

Most significant jobs to date

  • UN Youth Volunteer, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Bhutan
  • Programme Officer, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) in Mongolia
  • Associate Expert in Human Rights at OHCHR
  • Associate Social Affairs Officer (consultant) at UNESCAP
  • Social Policy Officer, UNICEF, DRC

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