By Sophie Wang
I am now well past the halfway point of my six-month internship at the UN Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) Secretariat in New York. I feel as if I have finally started to grasp how things actually work at UNGEI, at UNICEF and in New York. While my last blog was rather personal, I’ll explore my work with UNGEI more in this blog.
The UNGEI Secretariat is a multi stakeholder partnership working to achieve gender equality in and through education. While UNGEI is hosted in the Education Section of UNICEF’s Programmes Division, UNGEI’s funding sources are independent of UNICEF’s, and UNGEI also does not engage in programming work outside of funding pilot projects. Rather, UNGEI focuses on promoting evidence building and sharing of good practices between its global and regional partners, while at the same time engaging in policy advocacy and pursuing funding opportunities. And all of this is managed by a small team of only five full-time team members in New York including our director, Nora Fyles, who works enough for three people!
During my interview with UNGEI, Nora had warned that if I’m looking for a professional 9-5 experience, UNGEI is not the right place to do so. Even after starting the internship and creating my work plan, it was very vague what exactly I would be working on a daily basis. Yet somehow there are always items to take care of. A part of UNGEI’s work is convening partners and facilitating information sharing and dialogue between them. A large part of my work has been assisting in that process and communicating with our partners as well as regional focal points in South Asia, Eastern and Southern Africa, Western and Central Africa, and East Asia Pacific UNICEF offices.
Another exciting aspect of my work has been the research projects I’ve been involved in. I spent the first two months working with an UNGEI consultant on a research project funded by UNGEI and the Malala Fund examining the cost effectiveness of girls’ education interventions in different countries. While the extensive research conducted revealed little on the actual cost effectiveness of programme interventions, the lack of evidence in itself was an important indication that we need more standardized measures of success as well as a more consolidated database on girls’ education interventions. More recently, I have been working with another consultant on building country profiles for the seven countries of focus for the G7 Gender and the Centre Initiative–Nigeria, Mozambique, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, and Chad.
As for the rest of my time, under the guidance of the UNICEF Systems, Innovation, Data and Evidence for Results (SIDER) team, I have been exploring various data analytics tools and ways to apply a gender lens to such tools to help us understand the extent of equity and intersectional marginality issues in education.
There is a steep learning curve when entering any large organization, especially one as geographically and thematically expansive as UNICEF. I do not yet feel anywhere close to the peak of that curve yet. However, being immersed within the UNICEF NYHQ office has allowed me to learn so much more about education programming that I would have purely from research. Every day, I am adding to my knowledge base and every day I feel incredibly fortunate and thankful to be here.