Concluding chapter one, bon courage!

Gender Equality, Paris, Travel, UNESCO

eeacba78cfb1bbde25e6aa0b0452ea35Wow, how time flies. It feels like I just arrived, but after three months I am proud to say I completed my internship with the gender equality division at UNESCO. To be honest, it came with challenges, but I am grateful for every single one of them because it taught me new things about myself, international development, and working for a huge organization.

When I was determining what kind of internship I wanted, I made a list of what I was looking for. I put two things on that list that I really wanted. The first was to work for a big organization. In the past I had worked in all sectors (public, private and non-profit) but I had never worked for a large international relations organization and I wanted a first-hand look into what that might be like. Second, I wanted to work in an area that I am passionate about. That limited but important criteria led me to the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, to work in the gender equality division.

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Working for a huge organization like UNESCO comes with its perks and challenges. The community is diverse and many brilliant minds come together to work on projects that are really trying to make a difference in the world. This is something that I have cherished while working at UNESCO. However, due to it’s large size, many things get stalled while going through protocol or getting approved. When I first learned about all the formalities, I thought this would be incredibly frustrating. Instead, I have actually learned to settle into it and be more patient. I have a very North American work ethic, so waiting to get things done was never a strength of mine. However, understanding that different people and cultures have different perceptions of time has been a great learning experience for me and it has made me more patient and iterate as new information comes up.

In the short time I have been at UNESCO, I have done many different things and I have gained a lot of confidence in my abilities. I have represented my division at international conferences, I have written speeches for both the Director General, created summaries, graphs and policy briefs on topics and recommended further steps for action. I have a funny feeling I will be back at UNESCO soon, but until I know for sure, it’s been a wonderful experience living and working in Paris and for an incredible organization.

La Vie en Rose

Gender Equality, Paris, UNESCO
Taking notes and envisioning new things.

Taking notes and envisioning new things.

Summer is in full effect in Paris, and that means most Parisians have left the city. The weather is great and I don’t mind having the extra room to walk, bike and hang around. I have been working in the gender equality division for over two months, and I finally feel at home. Whenever I start something new, there is always a learning stage. I learn by doing, so not having an orientation when I arrived meant I was bound to make mistakes, but learn a lot along the way.  This is exactly what I’ve done. The hardest thing for me to learn is the formalities. Since UNESCO is a huge organization, doing even the simplest task requires oversight, approval and often revisions from various departments. There are words that UNESCO uses (and does not use) and the format of all documents, programs, speeches, emails, etc. must fit specific parameters or it will get lost in the fray. In addition, switching from French to English and English to French in a conversation, email, or meeting can be a bit of a headache at times. However, it’s beautiful. I love walking into the UNESCO building every day and hearing several languages spoken. I love practicing my French and learning by listening. I think my enthusiasm to learn and try new things has caught the attention of my division, because they are happy to give me a variety of tasks.

Representing the gender equality division at the, "Youth and Internet" conference at UNESCO HQ.

Representing the gender equality division at the, “Youth and Internet” conference at UNESCO HQ.

In the past month I have had the honor of representing the gender equality division at conferences and official meetings, I have written speeches about women’s empowerment for the Director General and the Assistant Director General, and evaluated RFP/grant applications focused on empowering girls and women in all different sectors and all across the world. Some times I feel like I’m suffering from imposter syndrome, and that I don’t belong here. In those moments my wonderful director always lets me know that I’m here for a reason and since I believe in the work I am doing, I should never doubt myself.

Speaking of the work I do, I get this question a lot. When people ask, I say, “I work for the gender equality division at UNESCO.” Usually, they pause, try to process and then say, “what is that?” 

In the beginning this question (in French, English, Spanish, or any language) used to bug me. Then, I realized that sometimes important work is hard to understand unless it’s clearly explained. So, here is my brief attempt at answering that question:

So, you know how the world is not a completely fair and equal place?

A bit of humor helps us understand the state of the world and how we can make it better for the greater good.

A bit of humor helps us understand the state of the world and how we can change it.

Overtime, systems/institutions and cultural norms of all kinds have exacerbated inequalities and certain people have been victim to these exploitative systems. My job is to review projects, practices and bring awareness through education about how to create a more equatable world through all the sectors that UNESCO works in, including but not limited to education, science, culture, communication and information. Gender equality is something that everyone can get behind, but in order to build better systems we need to examine the problems in the current system and adapt and innovate them so they level the “playing field” for everyone.

Hopefully this brings greater insight into what I’m doing in Paris, besides eating baguettes with cheese 🙂

Snapshots of life in Paris

Paris, Travel, UNESCO

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”Dorothea Lange

Life flies by when you are soaking in the moments. Paris loves art, culture, and expression which is hard to describe in words. The magic of photos lets you see and create your own story. Here are some snapshots of my life living in Paris and traveling around.