Message to Staff from UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore on the launch of an independent task force on workplace gender discrimination and harassment

07 June 2018

NEW YORK, 27 May 2018 – Gender discrimination, harassment and abuse of power have no place in any work environment — especially in an organization like UNICEF, which has always been driven by the core values of respect, inclusivity and caring. 

After hearing from staff members across our organization, I have committed to take action to end discrimination in every UNICEF office and work environment. 

To help do this, and in keeping with my previous messages to you, I am launching an Independent Task Force to review our current practices and provide recommendations to effectively and systematically prevent and address workplace gender-related discrimination, harassment and abuse of power. This represents an important step in our broader journey towards eliminating discrimination and abuse of power of any kind.

This Independent Task Force brings together senior leaders external to UNICEF from across a range of sectors and backgrounds — development, business, non-profit, gender equality and human rights — all with a commitment to, and experience in, shaping positive, inclusive, non-discriminatory and gender-equitable work environments.

I am charging them with making a thorough and unbiased examination of our systems and culture, and providing us with objective and actionable recommendations to implement meaningful changes across our organization.

The Task Force will be led by two Co-Chairs:

Debrework Zewdie is an Ethiopian national who has led strategy, policy implementation and management of development programs at the country, regional, and global levels for international bodies such as the World Bank and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. She was also the founding Vice President of the Society for Women and AIDS in Africa. 

Purnima Mane is from India and is the former President and CEO of Pathfinder International, and former Assistant Secretary-General and UNFPA Deputy Executive Director of Programmes. She also has extensive experience at the country, regional and global levels in her long career in public health policy, practice and advocacy, including at the WHO and the Population Council.

The Task Force’s formulation and work is being supported by a secretariat, led by Principal Advisor, Gender and Development at UNICEF, Anju Malhotra. The secretariat will also serve as liaison and facilitator for the Task Force’s interactions with an Internal Engagement Group composed of UNICEF staff members from various job functions, offices, backgrounds and staff associations who will serve both as a resource and a sounding board. We are in the process of pulling this group together and will make sure that the participants in the Internal Engagement Group are known to all staff.

The Independent Task Force’s terms of reference are posted here. It will work over a period of approximately 6 months to examine our organizational processes, systems, policies, procedures, reporting structures and redress measures. Members will be given full scope to obtain data, staff perspectives and all relevant information for shaping their recommendations.

The Task Force will also be free to consult with experts and resources outside of UNICEF, drawing from the experiences of others. This includes our sister UN agencies and other institutions in the public and private sectors to learn from how they are addressing harassment and discrimination in their workplaces.

The Task Force’s ultimate recommendations will be presented to staff and the Executive Board, and a follow-up Action Plan will be developed and implemented swiftly.

This is an important moment in UNICEF’s 70-year journey, as we — together — translate our organization’s commitment to zero tolerance for discrimination and harassment into a reality across our work environment.

I am so glad to be on this journey with you, as we continue carrying this organization into the future.

Henrietta H. Fore

Executive Director

Media contacts

UNICEF Media Team
Tel: +1 212 303 7984


UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. 

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