A group of people sitting in front of an image of different women with the words #PowerOn

Dispatch from UNESCO India: Saya Soma’s second blog from the field

Photo credit: UNESCO
By Saya Soma, MAGG

One of the benefits of interning at UNESCO is the access to its career development resources prepared by the Headquarters in Paris for the interns. In the past month and a half while interning at the UNESCO New Delhi Cluster Office, I have attended several online workshops for interns from all over the world. As these events aim to help the interns get the most out of the internship and leverage the experience for further career building, the events’ facilitators often have us reflect on our unique skillset that can contribute to the success of UNESCO’s works, and therefore, make us valuable to the future employers (in UNESCO or elsewhere). So, I have been asking myself – what makes me unique, and therefore valuable? – as I work on different projects that each test my different skillset.

A recent project that made me reflect on this question was the International Women’s Day (or IWD) campaign. Every year on March 8th, the world commemorates IWD and reflects on the progress made towards and the challenges still remaining against gender equality. This year, UNESCO New Delhi planned a small event and a week-long social media campaign for IWD.

The event involved an interactive photo booth and gathering of the UNESCO New Delhi staff and students from a local college. Once the idea for the day was conceptualized, my role was to coordinate the logistics for the event – such as coordinating with the external vendor on designing and delivery of the booth, communicating with the focal point at the college to coordinate students’ participation, and planning for event documentation (filming) with our communications team. I created a project plan and task tracking sheet (for both the event and social media campaign), and completed the tasks for the event in about a week. However, I faced a challenge on the day as the delivery of the booth was delayed due to the traffic jam caused by heightened security for G20-related meetings in the city. While the severity of New Delhi traffic took me by a surprise (even after living here for over a month…), with the amazing support of the women in the team, we quickly turned around and put together an impromptu discussion circle session for the students who were visiting our office, instead of originally planned program. The 23 local women students and I sat in semi-circle, and I got to listen to their thoughts on women’s leadership and technology’s role in women’s empowerment in line with this year’s IWD theme – DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality. I was very inspired by the passion in their responses and ideas on breaking gender norms, deriving from their lived experiences. And I was particularly moved by the sense of solidarity in that room, as the discussion expanded among the students and the women staff at UNESCO who came to listen to the next generation of young women leaders. Afterwards, I was glad to see on the students’ social media posts how excited they were to have shared their thoughts on gender equality with UNESCO (I was able to see this as they used the hashtag we prepared). We published a short video highlighting their voices and I am putting together an engaging report with the knowledge we gathered from these students.

This event made me reflect a lot on young women’s empowerment and my skillset that can potentially contribute to it via small projects like this one. I think that my previous experience working in a post-secondary schools and the skillset I acquired through coordinating student events and orientations there helped in flexibly setting up this impromptu student event at the last minute, organizing the students, and breaking the ice. And I’d like to think that my friendly and inclusive manner of interaction helped them feel welcomed and made it clear that their voices were valued in that space, so that they felt comfortable expressing their thoughts. And judging from what they shared on social media, this event, connecting the students with the UNESCO’s women programme officers, was really inspiring to them and their opinions being heard by the officers seems to have made them feel empowered. It was a small scale event with a small number of students, but being able to facilitate such impactful session using my skillset helps me imagine how I can potentially make myself unique and valuable in the field of education and its role in youth empowerment, especially for girls and other marginalized genders.

For the social media campaign, my responsibilities were to plan the campaign in coordination with the two other interns in Canada and the communications team here, edit videos collected from partner organizations across India and Sri Lanka, create infographics, and write captions. As the partners collected videos not only from women in high leadership positions, but also from young student leaders, the campaign amplified the voices of young advocates for women, girls and other marginalized gender groups.

Though I do not really think of it as a unique skillset, being able to navigate social media landscape and knowing what younger generations react to was helpful in this campaign. And although video editing and graphic designing were not the primary qualifications required for the internship position, my having these skillset came in handy as the timeline to prepare these posts were short and I was able to jump in and help the communications team to meat the deadline. It was also a great opportunity for me to develop my skills further through working closely with the communications team. I suppose social media and visual editing skills are something that is valuable to any type of works in today’s society.

Although I do not have a solid answer to the question – what makes me unique, and therefore valuable? – there are thankfully many moments to reflect on it as I get to partake in different types of projects here in UNESCO New Delhi. Looking forward to more challenges and reflective moments in the remaining few months!

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