Five children laughing

Dispatch from UNESCO India: Larissa Prata Varella’s first blog from the virtual field

Photo credit: UNESCO

By Larissa Prata Varella, MIPP

Sitting here in my home office in Waterloo, Canada, I am writing this post a little sleepy after having two meetings this week that ended past midnight due to being in a different time zone. A downside of working remotely. However, my 19-year-old self starting her bachelor’s in International Relations back in Brazil would be very proud that I have the opportunity to now work as a Junior Professional Consultant in the Education Sector of UNESCO New Delhi.  


The UNESCO office in New Delhi is a cluster office, as its mandate covers six countries in South Asia – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka – which allows me to learn about various cultures in the region. And being able to work in the Education Sector means that I get to be at the heart of the agency’s mission to build peace, eradicate poverty and drive sustainable development, mainly through providing regional leadership in education. UNESCO New Delhi also has other areas of expertise, including Natural Sciences, Social and Human Sciences, Culture, Communication and Information, and Statistics. All these sectors work together to contribute to the agency’s mission and support the Member States. 


After a lengthy administrative process, I officially started my role as Program Support for Girls’ Education Programmes in January 2023. Even though it has only been a month, I have already had plenty of work and learning opportunities within the Education team. My role mainly involves editing drafted publications developed with UNESCO’s partners, creating communication-related materials, and participating and providing support in the conceptualization and development of several projects – including the launch of commemorative international days-related events. Currently, these responsibilities are requested in the form of two main projects: the International Day of Education 2023 and the #KeepGirlsInSchool programme.


The team and I worked on the agency’s celebration of the International Day of Education 2023. Sticking to the theme ‘to invest in people, prioritize education,’ the UNESCO New Delhi Cluster Office expanded the annual celebration into a week-long campaign to galvanize further support for quality education. One of the week’s highlights was a panel discussion that brought together representatives from youth activism, community-focused organizations, expert scholars, and other partnering institutions to deliberate on leveraging education to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. I was particularly involved in supporting the preparation of talking points for the event, which allowed me to familiarize myself with the agency’s communication structures, its mandate, the outcomes of the Transforming Education Summit (TES), and India’s national education policies, which aim to translate the commitments made in the TES summit into action. 


I also have been involved in the #KeepGirlsInSchool programme, which is developed as a partnership between Procter & Gamble and UNESCO. The team and I are responsible for reviewing the drafts and ensuring gender and disability inclusivity of several teaching-learning training modules to improve Menstrual Health and Hygiene Management (MHHM) education in India. In addition, I have been able to put to good use the skills honed in my master’s program at BSIA in terms of writing policy briefs, reports, and articles to ensure we can put out the best result possible and contribute to reshaping local social taboos and misconceptions regarding menstruation among students, educators, and the community. 


As India holds the Presidency of the Group of 20 (G20), I am excited to be able to support the preparations for this year’s summits since UNESCO is a knowledge partner for the Government of India and has been conducting preliminary data-gathering and agenda preparation for the education track of the summit. This and other projects that are lined up and will require my assistance make me feel appreciative of this internship. I am looking forward to the professional growth opportunities ahead!

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