Are you a female leader interested in working for UNICEF in the field? Read this empowering interview with Shandana Aurangzeb, National Officer in the Pakistan Office and member of UNICEF's Immediate Response Team (IRT). She has been involved in many emergencies in her own country and was recently deployed on a L-3 emergency assignment in Nigeria.
“For every child, Peace and an equitable chance to life”
Shandana Aurangzeb, National Officer in the Pakistan Office and member of UNICEF's Immediate Response Team (IRT)
What is one of your memorable experience working for UNICEF?
– Meeting a young woman during an IDP crisis in Pakistan who was breastfeeding her own and a neighbor’s child, who had been killed during the journey. She took care of an additional child, while she already had five children and no resources. When I asked her how she is able to do it, she said “this could be my own child”. This really inspired and motivated me to work in this difficult work environment. These women and girls I met in emergencies are really my heroes and guides and we have to be there for them and do anything possible to support them no matter how difficult the circumstances may be.
What advice do you have for women currently in an emergency context?
– You should be open minded, be aware of cultural diversity and be flexible to adapt. Respecting the local community and drawing from the local wisdom and knowledge of local staff is crucial. Moreover, it is important to take care of yourself, exercise, eat, make friends and develop positive coping strategies. With regards to Safety and Security, you have to be particularly careful as a women and should abide to the protocols, including your clothing style.
What are the main benefits / challenges of working in an emergency context?
– It is certainly challenging to be away from your family and enter a new environment without friends and limited internet connection. You have to find your place in a new team. Moreover, things never go as planned and you have to remain flexible and responsive. You are really pushed out of your comfort zone.
But that’s also a very positive thing, as it makes you grow and develop. I really enjoyed my emergency experience in Nigeria and feel confident now to go on an international assignment. It was very diverse and I was given many additional responsibilities. The pace of learning in an emergency is so much faster and you have the opportunity to explore new areas all the time. Although I already had plenty of emergency experience on the national level I have learned so much, as it was a different environment. It also showed me that many things are possible to achieve with UNICEF's simplified emergency procedures and great coordination and team collaboration on the ground. If you can handle an emergency assignment, you can handle any assignment. It is the best way to move internationally and I enjoy every bit of my work with UNICEF.