2013 - Bolatito, who is from Nigeria and works as a Dutch-funded JPO with UNFPA, shares with us her experiences and insights on her assignment in the Ethiopia.
I have six years of experience in population, health, environment and nutrition programming. My areas of technical competency include: management of censuses and large population surveys, Reproductive Health/Family Planning, HIV/AIDS, Nutrition, Child Survival and Integrated Population, Health and Environment program. I have managed and supported programs in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, and the USA. I possess strong skills in: policy analysis, advocacy, research, data management and analysis, capacity building, program coordination, monitoring and evaluation. I hold a Master of Public Health degree in Medical Demography and I’m fluent in English and French.
My academic background in Public Health with specialized knowledge in the field of Demography and Population Studies, my years of experience in research, programme management and monitoring and evaluation, and prior work experience in developing countries gave me a comparative advantage in joining the JPO programme.
I applied for the JPO programme because of the opportunity it presents to me to further improve my technical competencies, cultural diversity and personal experience within an organized institution – the UN.
I currently work with the Country Office of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). UNFPA contributes to the improvement of the quality of life of the people of Ethiopia, especially women and young people, through promoting universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights. UNFPA's main activities includes those targeted at improving maternal health through provision of information and services on emergency maternal and neonatal obstetrics care, skilled human resources for maternal health and addressing the unmet need for family planning; addressing the sexual and reproductive health needs of adolescents and youth; address gender inequality with a special focus on gender based violence; and ensuring better understanding of population dynamics through adopting a human rights based approach.
I currently co-manage UNFPA's Population and Development (PD) program implementation through the establishment of collaborative relationships with implementing agencies, experts, government counterparts and other UN agencies. I co-manage the annual 1 Million USD PD program budget by facilitating timely and efficient delivery of project inputs; identifying constraints, resource deficiency and capacity gaps among implementing partners; and channeling funds to address these needs.
The most enriching and challenging project I am working on is coordinating the country office's engagement with the Ethiopian Parliament on high-level advocacy and legislation on PD-related issues especially within the context of post-2015 development agenda.
The most rewarding experience for me at my duty station is the ability to manage a huge fund and the opportunity to learn from very qualified colleagues who are always willing to provide guidance on how to better enhance my skills.
Living and working in Ethiopia is really interesting. Although I am an African from Nigeria and I have spent most of my life on the continent, I find Ethiopia very different from other parts of Africa I have lived and worked. I was quite impressed with the uniqueness of the official language, Amharic.
The most challenging aspect I find difficult to adapt to in Ethiopia is the cuisine as it is totally different from what I am used to.
The motivation to work in the field of development stems from a passion in public health issues and a sense of connection with people, especially those in need of basic resources. This sense of connection and passion that is so poignant for me is rooted in my experience as a young Nigerian girl who grew up in an ethnic community where social inequality persist and also on my volunteering, and my work experience.
Thinking about my JPO assignment, the random words that come to my mind are: exciting, different, learning, fascinating, development, nurturing, friendship, networking, mature, professional, international career, change, and opportunity.
To new JPOs, I would advise them to be open and flexible to change; see every challenge as an opportunity to bring out the best in themselves; think of the bigger picture (life continues after the JPO programme so network hard, learn new things, focus one or two technical areas and build competency in the area(s)), leverage on all the opportunities the programme present- the duty station, DTTA, etc.
Having been a JPO for the past one year and 3 months, the experience has not only widened my horizon in the field development but I have been able to reinforce my competencies in Population and Development. I am confident that my JPO experience will definitely influence my career opportunities within the UN system by informing the kind of positions I apply for thereafter. After my JPO assignment, I see myself taking up an expert position with my current organization or the other UN organizations that attract experts of my profile, such as UNDP, UNICEF, UN Women, IOM, or UNDESA.
By the way...
My favorite quote is"opportunity plus preparation equals success”.
I am inspired by people who don’t give up but make the best of whatever life hands to them.