Lauren Rumble, Chief of Child Protection in Indonesia: “My JPO experience helped to shape my passion for child protection.”
I began my JPO experience in UNICEF Headquarters, New York, in the Office of Emergency Operations, Humanitarian Policy Unit. Exposure to global policy making decisions for UNICEF at the highest levels of the organisation, I learned about core humanitarian principles, new and emerging research on effective responses to emergencies and the work of many UNICEF offices to respond to acute emergency needs and rights of children. Closely supported by my supervisor- the then Chief of Humanitarian Policy- I was able to work independently on several initiatives with other UN and NGO partners; such as designing guidelines for implementing cash transfers in emergencies and developing minimum standards for gender-based violence programmes in humanitarian settings. Within 5 years after my JPO ended, I became a P5- one of the youngest senior professionals at this level in UNICEF. I owe much of this career progression to senior women leaders within the organisation that believed in me, the JPO experience that funded and exposed me to the work of UNICEF and a generous training opportunity that afforded me direct learning from the field.
I have recently located to the UNICEF office in Indonesia, where I manage the Child Protection Programme. I oversee a team of technical specialists to influence national scale policy reform for children’s protection from violence, abuse and exploitation. Indonesia is an emerging middle income country but still features widespread poverty and inequalities. Working closely with government, civil society and children directly, we advocate for the government to allocate budget for child safety and child rights, for the implementation of innovative social welfare and justice interventions that provide care and support to child victims of abuse and for legislative advancements to better protect children- for example changes to the marriage law on child marriage.
My most needed skill is advocacy: UNICEF’s budget in Indonesia is relatively small but the Government’s national revenue is large. Convincing the government to reallocate funds to children’s protection requires sensitivity, technical expertise and advanced communication skills. Before coming to Indonesia, I served as the Chief of Child Protection for UNICEF Zimbabwe; managing a budget of over 80 million USD and reaching more than a million vulnerable children every year with comprehensive child and social protection services. Managing such a large programme involved donor liaison skills, financial acuity and partnership approaches with government and civil society in a fragile political context.
My JPO experience helped to shape my passion for child protection in humanitarian and post conflict contexts and the ability to navigate complex policy and programme environments.
During the final year of my JPO, I utilised my funding for a stretch assignment in Darfur, Sudan, to work on child protection in a context affected by conflict and destruction. Living in a small prefab building with restricted movement, I had the opportunity to work closely with a passionate and dedicated child protection team who were themselves struggling with trauma and stress due to the harsh working conditions. We engaged with rebel fighters, government officials and many displaced women and children affected by the violence to provide emergency assistance and care. This experience shaped my now 10 year professional commitment to ending violence against children around the world. I have never forgotten the courage of the women and children who were brave enough to share their experiences with me.
My advice for current JPOs would be to get out to the field! Insist on your own project, and funding, to manage. Learning is best accompanied by accountability and responsibility. Be flexible in your role and be open to trying anything, anywhere, with anyone.
Please visit Lauren Blog where you can find latest stories from UNICEF Indonesia.
Sayaka Usui, Education Officer in the DRC: A JPO Success Story
Please describe your personal experience as a JPO.
I learned a lot, both professionally and personally, as a human being. Professionally, I gained real experience in Education in Emergencies cluster coordination at the national level (I had never had any experience in emergencies before), supply planning and management, PCA management, project management and donor coordination and resource mobilization, among many other experiences. (Working with colleagues in the Tokyo PARMO office, I got a 5.5M USD grant from the Government of Japan to the Liberia Country Office for our emergency operations — that was one of my greatest accomplishment during my JPO period).
Personally, I re-confirmed my belief in education, and in helping children and developing countries. I confirmed my commitment to UNICEF. Life and work in a hardship country was not easy sometimes, but all the challenges I faced during my JPO period turned out to be valuable assets. I appreciate having been dispatched to Liberia, including during an on-going emergency phase, with all the additional challenges that that posed. I can say that, due to the additional challenges of being in the front line of an emergency operation, in a hardship country, with limited resources and stress-relief activities, I gained more in the end. I sincerely appreciate all my colleagues, friends, counterparts, beneficiaries — everyone in Liberia.
Is there anything you wish you had known while you were a JPO?
If I could have known more about UNICEF’s programme management cycle and administrative issues (entitlements, etc.), my JPO period would have been easier in terms of saving time and energy. Everyone in the office is very busy and JPOs are expected to know about our own entitlements, UNICEF’s rules and regulations, programme cycles, etc. It took a long time and a lot of energy to get a full understanding of these issues. During an emergency phase, in particular, there was no time for me to become familiar with them.
Please share your thoughts/ideas on how to navigate and thrive at UNICEF, including how to find a post once the JPO experience has concluded.
From my experience, if we can believe ‘challenge is opportunity’, we can keep being positive, even in difficult situations. The JPO period is really a precious time to learn, to grow, to become a high-level professional, as well as a valuable time to develop as a human being. It depends on each JPO how to spend their time and how to keep a positive attitude toward challenges. If we have the proper attitude toward others, situations and challenges, those around us (supervisor, colleagues, etc.) will support us.
I find my current post very interesting, working on Gender in Education in the DRC, a Francophone country. I never imagined myself getting posted to Francophone countries, but, as my supervisor during my time as a JPO time once encouraged me: “If we are technically strong enough, the language will follow.” I sincerely appreciate the DRC Country Office for offering me my current post despite my intermediate French. I strongly believe that what I learned technically during my JPO period is the foundation of my technical expertise.
What do you do in your current position and how did the JPO Programme help prepare you (i.e., technical skills, networking, work experience in field offices)?
Broadly, I am responsible for equity in education in an ‘Access and Quality Education’ team within the Education section. More specifically, I am in charge of gender equity in education – gender mainstreaming of all education/inter-section programmes and projects in the DRC office, supporting the DRC Government in the development of girls’ education policies and strategies, inclusive education, School-Related Gender Based Violence (SRGBV) and equity analysis (education statistics and indicators).
The JPO programme helped me to have strong technical knowledge and skills in the area of girls’ education and equity in education, coordination and networking with Education sector partners, strategic thinking, and teamwork with colleagues and stakeholders inside and outside the section as well as inside and outside UNICEF.
What was a highlight of your experience while in the JPO Programme?
Starting with the beginning of my JPO assignment in March 2011, I spent most of my time and energy on Education in Emergencies (EIE) operations in eastern Liberia, supporting Ivorian refugee children. After more than a year of EIE operation, in July 2012, around 400 Ivorian refugee children took their official 6th grade exam – the Government of Ivory Coast’s formal assessment of the completion of six years of primary education – in five refugee camps in Liberia. The average pass rate in the camps was 84%, much higher than the national average in Côte d’Ivoire (less than 50%). I represented UNICEF at the ceremony awarding the official certificates in February 2013. When we called the names of each child during the ceremony, the parents also came to the stage and shared their joy and expressed their appreciation to UNICEF and our partners. The shining, smiling face of each child, and the parents and teachers, all refugees in the camp, expressed their pride at being Ivorian. I saw their dignity and pride despite the very challenging situation of living as refugees in a refugee camp. It was just a part of my daily job, but that one moment really touched me. All the past challenges and difficulties of my job as EIE national coordinator had been fully rewarded.
What advice would you give to current JPOs who are building their careers?
Try your best to do what you believe is right. If we have the proper attitude, we can get the most out of ‘learning by doing’. Network with fellow JPOs and mentors. Find your mentor(s) and seek technical as well as career advice from them. A career in UNICEF includes the possibility of working in emergency, hardship and non-family duty stations. Think about the value of the experience and the commitment required, and whether you really value continuing to work in UNICEF, in terms of the potential high risk of losing a good “work and life balance”..
If the New Talent Unit at NYHQ assisted you with career transitioning, please share what you found helpful (i.e, Mock Interview, P11 Clinic, Career Advise)
I was supported by the P11 Clinic, Mock Interview and Career Advice. All of them were really helpful, particularly the Mock Interview. For my current post, I had to do an actual interview, and I got the job.
Photo caption: “I was a JPO in Liberia, at the Ivorian refugee camp attending a ceremony to award elementary school certificates in Feb 2013. The two girls on the right passed the exam, and they got official certificates from the Ministry of Education of Côte d’Ivoire on the day this photo was taken.” Sayaka Usui