By Alexandra Giorgis-Audrain

My name is Alexandra Giorgis-Audrain and my main interests are in the areas of global health, and improving gender and economic equality. As such, I was very delighted to be offered the opportunity to work for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Myanmar on their Gender-based Violence (GBV) Programme since it not only involves working in those three areas, but also helps individuals at risk of experiencing gender-based violence.

At first, I was disheartened to not be able to physically work in Myanmar due to COVID-19. I was especially disappointed after discovering that the country had virtually no cases, and I had really wanted to work alongside everyone back in the office. Soon enough though, I became relieved that I was required to stay home because within the first week of my internship, the city of Yangon, where the office is located in, went into full lockdown due to the influx of COVID-19 cases. That meant that I was no longer the only one in the office working remotely. Everyone else joined my world of Microsoft Teams, coordinating over messages and calls, and sharing online documents. Although I cannot wait to visit Myanmar one day, I am very grateful to live in Nova Scotia where there are just four active COVID-19 cases at the time of writing, and where I can still safely grab a coffee from Starbucks when I need that extra bit of motivation.

The hardest aspect of working remotely while being in a different country is the time difference. It has proven to be inconvenient at times when scheduling meetings with people in multiple different time zones. Most times I will be waking up when others are just getting off work, whereas at other times my colleagues will be waking up just as I am going to sleep. Despite these little inconveniences, everyone is aware of each other’s time zones and are therefore sensitive and understanding of everyone’s time.

COVID-19 is affecting all our lives in different ways, but especially women’s lives. A lot of us had to change our way of working, while others face different challenges arising from the measures implemented to prevent the further spread of the disease. Women in particular face an increased risk of experiencing gender-based violence because of the confinement requirements. Before the pandemic, 1 in 3 women were found to have experienced some form of gender-based violence, and now women not only face a greater threat of being exposed to violence but are also proving to be less able to seek help because they are either constantly in presence of their abuser or because protection services are less accessible as a result of the COVID-19 restrictions.

The work that UNODC in Myanmar is doing with their Gender-based Violence Programme is very crucial in supporting the criminal justice system in responding to cases of gender-based violence. I am looking forward to helping out even more as time goes so that I can help protect vulnerable individuals who are either at risk or are experiencing violence.