5 December 2020
Earlier this year, the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth said goodbye to unpaid internships, introducing a new fellowship programme — in collaboration with UN Volunteers (UNV) — designed specifically to provide more meaningful, paid employment opportunities for young people at the United Nations.
Through the programme, we received thousands of applications from qualified, passionate candidates around the world, all eager to contribute to our efforts working with and for youth in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
On the occasion of International Volunteers Day, we are pleased to introduce you to our first class of four fellows from around the world, as they reflect on how they first came across this fellowship opportunity.
Over the coming months, we invite you to continue getting to know these young leaders as they share their stories and experiences. Each month, our fellows will publish a new blog here on our website — helping provide insights into the experiences of young people working at the United Nations, and encouraging other young people to consider a career in the international civil service.
To kick-off the conversation, we asked each of the fellows: How did you find out about the fellowship opportunity with the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth (OSGEY)?
Wanangwa Rachel Mganga (Malawi; Fellow in Gender Equality): Prior to this opportunity, I have never worked for the UN! As a global citizen, I always wanted to be part of a cohort of activists working toward peace, empowerment and development, and meaningful inclusion to facilitate transformative and sustainable change at a global scale. At the national level, I had been contributing toward meaningful youth engagement and promotion of gender equality, through implementation and management of various programmes. However, I wanted to be part of the think-tanks that strategized and informed advocacy and policies before they trickled down to be implemented at regional, national and local levels. I came across this opportunity on the calls in my UNV profile, and immediately applied. Not only was it tailored to my niche in moving the needle on the gender equality agenda and the meaningful inclusion of youth in all spheres, but it also would allow me to inform polices from the other side of the coin (i.e. a reverse to take experiences from implementation to feed into how programming and policies should be envisioned at a global level in order to better speak to regional, national and local levels). I knew the opportunity would fundamentally change my career trajectory, and that my debut into the UN could not have been better, than with the Envoy on Youth’s office — an office that is a global advocate for engaging young people to address their needs and rights, as well as for bringing the UN closer to them.
Bianca Liu Herzog (Brazil; Fellow in Coordination): When I found out about the UNV fellowships with the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, I was working for a multilateral organization. I had been working there for almost two years, but my contractual arrangements were never longer than a few months. The constant anxiety of not knowing whether I would have a job every other month was taking a toll on my well-being, and I decided to look for something more adapted to my needs but still within the UN, which had always been my dream and goal. That’s when I came across the fellowship programme. As a young person with prior UN working experience, I understood first-hand how changes need to be made for the UN-system to be better adapted to young people’s reality and needs, including from within. I was driven to apply, knowing that there is no better place to make it happen than with the Envoy on Youth’s office. This opportunity is a privilege, and I want to extend what I learn to other young people also dreaming of working for the UN. I want to help democratize access to the UN for young people from within and contribute to breaking down barriers young people in all our diversity face when engaging with the UN. To start, a while ago, I wrote an article about early career options with the UN. If you’re interested, you can find it here.
Maanishaa Jessani (India; Fellow in Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation): Disillusioned with conventional business jobs that offered no opportunity for triple bottom line impact and frustrated with development sector jobs that required years of experience, I felt void. I pushed myself harder each day while applying online, but I soon found myself struggling to find impactful opportunities that would hire people like me — a 23-year-old with only two years of work experience. I felt as if I wasn’t enough. Almost given up the job search, while I was mindlessly scrolling on Instagram, I came across the Envoy on Youth’s post advertising a fellowship. A one-year long paid opportunity that involved supporting the implementation of a global strategy and required less than two years of experience — all for the betterment of my generation! It seemed so surreal. I told myself that “the fellowship would satiate my desire to work in strategy consulting and weave it together with my journey of fostering sustainable partnerships.” I realized how this fellowship would write a journey for me — one that tracks a path from aspirations of inclusive growth that belong to young people across the world, to progress that’s ours together. My doubts stopped at the thought of a socio-economic system that every young person has access to, touching lives and being touched. I clicked on the apply button and was hopeful to multiply this idea across boundaries during and beyond the tenure of my fellowship.
Sarah AlNemr (Egypt; Fellow in Social Media): Around this time last year, I had just finished an unpaid internship with an international non-profit organization. I learned three things about myself when it comes to career prosperity: I need to work in a culturally dynamic environment, the work I am involved in must serve causes that I care deeply about and, no matter how important that work is to me, I need it to be financially sustainable so that I can support myself. Having these three goals in mind and knowing that the UN is the ideal place for me and those who are seeking similar goals to thrive, I headed to largest reservoir of meaningful opportunities for people with my level of experience and interest in serving internationally. I built a profile on the Volunteer Management Application Module (VMAM) platform. Then I proceeded to the Special Calls tab, made a list of all potential media-related assignments and researched them. The Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth’s call was one of my top wishes because it required a wide array of media expertise — meaning that I would broaden my media competencies while being able to deliver varying types of content as I have had diverse media-related jobs over the past years. I was super intimidated to apply because of the office’s appeal to youth, assuming the fact that I was applying as a Youth Volunteer would make the process even more competitive. I thought to myself “It just takes two clicks to apply. You can click two buttons.”
Learn more about the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth’s fellowship programme: www.un.org/youthenvoy/2020/02/want-to-be-a-fellow-apply-now-no-more-unpaid-internships/