My Journey as a JPC with UNA-Canada
By: Meena Mangal
Disclaimer: The views are those of the author's alone and do not represent the views of UNA-Canada.
Confucius, a well known Chinese Philosopher once said: “Give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. I have been a long time adherent and believer of this philosophy, in fact I was so much inspired by it that it became my dream to put this vision into practice and open up a small non-profit organization.
JPC Meena has long dreamed of creating her own non-profit
While I acknowledge and support short term relief initiatives, I have always believed that long term and sustainable actions are needed to move people out of the poverty cycle. I have yet to achieve my dream of establishing a non-profit, though I am very honoured to have been part of an organization that has brought this vision to life and continually makes a positive and sustainable impact on the lives of vulnerable communities around the world.
Through my internship with UNA-Canada, I was given the opportunity to work as a Junior Professional Consultant with the World Food Programme (WFP) in Zimbabwe, in their Reporting and Communications team. WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian organization as it operates in over eighty countries around the globe. The main objectives of WFP in Zimbabwe include: providing humanitarian assistance; building rural resilience to climate shocks and other stressors; and enhancing the country’s social protection system.
WFP's FFA Program (click for link to full report)
The Food Assistance for Assets programme (FFA) is one of the many WFP initiatives that I am proud to support. The impact of FFA is two-fold:
It improves the nutrition and food security of households by offering them immediate food and cash assistance;
It builds community resilience to various shocks through the creation of community and household assets.
The FFA programme aims to contribute to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 for Zero Hunger, by ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture. What I found particularly inspiring about this initiative is its programmatic response to provide support to those who's voices are not always heard, by using participatory planning approaches. Participatory planning through community engagement and consultation is used to select and prioritize FFA activities that build on the existing strengths of community members, particularly the most vulnerable. While this approach does not represent a complete solution, it is one of the initial important steps in the long-term process of empowering the most vulnerable, specifically women and girls.
WFP focuses on SDGs 2 and 17, in order to improve food security in communities across Zimbabwe
I am very grateful that my internship has allowed me the opportunity to contribute to WFP’s mission which is well aligned with my own professional objectives. The highlight of my internship was contributing to the implementation of donor and communications strategies. I supported the External Relations unit in their transition to a more strategic communications plan. I employed creative storytelling techniques to raise awareness of the multifaceted issues faced by vulnerable, food-insecure communities and advocated for WFP programmes. Coordination with WFP Regional Bureau Johannesburg was also a key part of my responsibilities, to identify opportunities for further visibility of WFP's programmes and priorities in Zimbabwe.
It was through my placement with WFP that I learned about Canada’s involvement in international development, and specifically our country's contribution to Zimbabwe. Canada has been a strong supporter of humanitarian projects in Zimbabwe over the past years, supporting the country through challenging times including climate related events like droughts and cyclones. More recently, Canada made a generous contribution of CAD 3.2 million to support crisis response activities, which will be used to support refugees in Tongogara camp and vulnerable families in urban areas of Zimbabwe.
Tongogara Refugee Camp in the South East of Zimbabwe, is home to over 10,000 refugees
Overall, the JPC journey has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life as it broadened my understanding of the complex issues in the field of humanitarian and international development. It made me cognizant of the impact of advocacy, communication and building partnerships. I am now more well aware of the importance of building strong partnerships and engaging with communities to address the challenges of sustainability and plan for a desirable and sustainable future. Through this experience, I have learned a lot about myself and the world around me. My team consisted of a diverse group of individuals from different walks of life, and this intercultural experience was another incredible aspect of my JPC journey as it allowed me to meet some talented and amazing people from all over the world. I am very grateful to UNA- Canada for providing us this life changing opportunity.