"Our capacity to adapt and innovate despite all the challenges makes us go forward"

Adele Khodr, UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia, is confident that women can come out of the crisis stronger

31 March 2021

On March 8, it's International Women's Day. This year’s theme is "Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world", celebrating the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. At UNICEF, we want to celebrate the achievements of women in leadership positions, and also those who display leadership qualities.

Throughout the whole month of March 2021, the Women's Month, we publish the stories of only a few of the many women who make a difference in UNICEF every day. Today, we host the interview of Adele Khodr, our UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia.

Adele, UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia, surrounded by children
Adele Khodr
Adele Khodr, in the middle, is always excited to be in the field surrounded by children.

I stayed almost 11 months without seeing my family! We get tested during difficult times: our capacity to adapt, to innovate and to find something positive despite all the challenges around us will make us go forward.

Adele Khodr

UNICEF Representative, Ethiopia

Who are you and what is your role at UNICEF?

My name is Adele Khodr and I am the UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia.

How did COVID-19 impact your life, both on professional as well as on personal level?

At the professional level, the fact that we cannot have the entire team in the office has meant that we stayed long periods of time without meeting the entire team. I believe that personal interaction and seeing our colleagues face-to-face brings more value than meeting over zoom. I missed seeing my team in the office. For the first few months of the pandemic, we also could not travel to the field, and I missed that too. Traveling to the field, meeting communities and meeting my team in the 8 field offices we have gives me usually energy and a stronger drive to work. Since 4 months ago, I resumed travelling to the field with precaution, and that invigorated and gave me again a sense of purpose. At the personal level, I usually like to take frequent short breaks during the year to go and see my family. Since COVID-19 started, I stayed almost 11 months without seeing my family! I missed them.

Do you think that the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionally impacted women, mothers and girls' lives, and how?

Yes, it did. Our colleagues who are working mothers had to do a double job during covid-19, as they had to work remotely from their homes, while at the same time supervising their kids while doing online studies. Once they are at home, they also cannot dissociate themselves from their household chores, so it feels like they have to attend to office job and home job. We should also no forget that mothers are more anxious and fear infection of their family members. All this has put more stress on women and mothers.

What do you believe are women's strengths, and what are the advantages of female leadership in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic?

Women are stronger physically and emotionally, although this could mean overreliance and very high expectations from them. The way women look at things is in general more comprehensive and touches on all sides of a story; it is also more detail-oriented and results-focused. Women in general want to get a job done and do not attach so much importance to other intervening variables. That is unique about female leadership. Of course, I am not saying this is the case for everyone. But in general, women are focused on getting the job done and they do give attention to details.

What is your advice to women navigating their careers during a health crisis, as well as in a post COVID-19 pandemic world?

We often get tested during difficult times: our capacity to adapt, to innovate and to find something positive despite all the challenges around us will make us go forward. We need to use more our strengths and be resilient. We need to remember that this will make us stronger, bolder, and better human beings. Being human is the first thing that matters!