Discovering the Intersection of Health and Development with UNFPA Bangladesh
By Jeanne Ndiaye
Disclaimer: The views are those of the author's alone and do not represent the views of UNA-Canada.
Image 1: Jeanne Ndiaye
Like many recent graduates, I was tirelessly navigating the post-pandemic job market after my undergraduate journey with no hope of finding a position that would combine all my interests. I was introduced to the world of international development at a young age due to my parents' careers with the United Nations, and I saw firsthand how impactful the work of a global citizen is in leaving a positive mark in the lives of many. I knew that eventually, I wanted to participate in the UN system, but I was unsure how and when this would happen to me.
My academic and professional background is in science and public health, hence I used SDG 3 “Good Health and Well-being” as a base point in orienting my career path. That is how I stumbled upon the United Nations Association in Canada’s (UNAC) International Youth Internship Program (IYIP). I suddenly gained hope while simultaneously fighting my imposter syndrome of working in the UN system.
My name is Jeanne Ndiaye, and I can proudly say I am a Junior Professional Consultant (JPC) with UNFPA Bangladesh, working remotely from Ottawa, Canada. UNFPA is a United Nations agency that works to improve population dynamics and address issues related to reproductive health. By conducting research on population trends and providing technical assistance, the organization aims to develop solutions to these issues and support the development of population policies that promote human rights. One important aspect of the UNFPA's work is focused on protecting and promoting the reproductive health of women and young people. This was a full-circle moment for me, as this went hand in hand with SDG Goal # 3 that I had been tirelessly working towards through my professional and volunteer work
Image 2: Sustainable Development Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being
In my role as a Monitoring and Evaluations (M&E) JPC for the program division, I frequently engage in analytical brainstorming sessions with leading health policy stakeholders such as UNFPA country and regional offices, government health agencies, and non-profits to reach marginalized women and youth. I also provide technical support for Sexual Reproductive Health, Gender, and Adolescent & Youth Programmes across the country. To date I have participated in paramount discussions surrounding the sustainability of health services, upholding the Social and Environmental Standards in health policy development, and creation of resources for life-skills training for adolescents and youth. Working with a team has taught me the value of skills like collaboration, communication, and trust in building successful partnerships. But the most empowering aspect of this journey is witnessing groups from diverse backgrounds working towards a shared goal – making Bangladesh a better country for all.
The highlight of my internship so far has been contributing to the improvement of the country office’s web-based Management Information Systems (MIS) for the M&E framework of the 10th country programme (2022-2026). The MIS is an online platform that allows field and program officers to streamline data collection, processing, storage, analyses, visualization, and dissemination systems more efficiently in one platform. My background in data analytics and statistical modeling in science has provided me with a strong foundation in understanding the gaps and roles of MIS users in managing the system. Through this task, I was forced to consider equity-driven outcomes from multiple angles, which has helped me to better understand my tasks at UNFPA.
Overall, this internship has brought on so many new outlooks to developmental work that I’m excited to incorporate and build upon as I complete Masters applications for the upcoming year and look at furthering my career in epidemiology and global health work focused toward maternal health and well-being.
My direct supervisors and colleagues have been nothing short of amazing throughout this journey. From the very first day, I was welcomed with open arms by subject-matter experts ready to pour their knowledge and provide guidance to an eager JPC. Even with the 11-hour time difference between Ottawa and Dhaka, their accommodations have made it an enjoyable experience.
I am very thankful to the IYIP program at UNA-Canada for providing youth like myself with this incredible opportunity to partake in the UN system in the early stages of our careers. I have no doubt that this internship will be a stepping-stone as I hope to continue flourishing as a global citizen.