Child Protection Officer
Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General
UNICEF, New York, HQ
Education: University of Tampere (Finland)
Field of Study: Political Science
Languages: English, Finnish, French, Swedish
“UNICEF and the Office of the SRSG have opened such avenues for me that I sometimes wonder if this is real, or just a dream. It is really a privilege to work for the important cause to combat violence against children and to do it with all these amazing colleagues from all over the world!”
In Finland we apply directly to specific positions, not to the Junior Professional Officer (JPO) Programme in general as in some other countries. Previously I had been working in the field of children’s rights as well as human rights in more general terms. Additionally, I had previous experience with the Finnish Foreign Ministry both here in New York as an intern years ago and after my graduation at the Finnish Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal. In Nepal I also volunteered with a local NGO working with domestic child laborers and other vulnerable children. When this position was advertised I just could not afford not to apply! I knew my profile was well suited for the position though I also anticipated tough competition. When I was chosen after long process of interviews and tests, I could hardly believe it was true. I still feel very fortunate, every day. I’ve always been a great supporter of the UN so somehow I am not too surprised that I finally made my way here. This feels right.
I’ve known for long time that my passion lies within human rights, development cooperation and international relations. Of course, many things depend on luck and timing but when I look back I can see some sort of path; one thing leads to another and I certainly feel that I am heading in the right direction. This JPO position gives me a unique opportunity to develop as a professional within the UN system and allows me to continue my specialization, while working with the most wonderful and knowledgeable colleagues I could ever imagine.
A typical day for me depends to some extent on important UN sessions and meetings in New York and Geneva, as well as on the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) travel plan. I attend meetings, mostly at the UN, and conduct background research for the SRSG’s missions, reports and speeches. I communicate with diplomatic missions here in New York, colleagues in other UN entities, and with civil society representatives on issues of common interest. Sometimes our office organizes special events or meetings and it is always busy around those days given the various things to do and remember!
The best things about the JPO Programme are that it can be an excellent entry point to a career with the UN and that it is certainly a great opportunity to grow and develop professionally. The JPO Programme here at UNICEF is excellent and the support from our JPO Unit is strong and steady; I really feel they are here for us! The challenge with this kind of career path is that you do not know what will happen after a year or two, so one needs to be able to live with some uncertainty. The JPO Programme is a good start, but still only a start!
My advice to aspiring UNICEF applicants - Don’t miss your chance! Plan ahead and do as much as you can to build your resume to prove that you are determined to do what you want to do.