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My Learning Journey in India: Interning in Education Sector at UNESCO New Delhi

By Saya Soma

Disclaimer: The views are those of the author's alone and do not represent the views of UNA-Canada.

Image 1: JPC Saya Soma

On 28 December 2022, I was visiting my family in Japan (where I am originally from) after not being able to visit them for three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As I sat in my childhood bedroom, where I used to dream of working at the UN, I received the confirmation letter for my internship with UNESCO New Delhi Cluster Office. I then rushed to book my flights, arranged accommodations, and applied for my Indian visa all within a week, and picked up my passport with the visa in the evening before my flight.

And two weeks later, on 10 January 2023, I was in New Delhi, India. It was a hectic journey and it had not quite sunk in what I was about to start then. But now that I have settled into my new life here, I feel grateful for how much the world has progressed in managing the pandemic and fortunate to be able to conduct this internship in person.

Image 2: Visiting Taj Mahal

I am interning as a Junior Professional Consultant for the Education Sector at UNESCO New Delhi Cluster Office. My role is Programme Support, particularly focusing on gender analysis and ensuring gender mainstreaming in all of our projects.

I have been exposed to many projects and experienced different aspects of UNESCO’s operation in the past two months that I have been here. I would categorize my experience into three types, and I have learned different things from each.

One is supporting project development, which is the primary role I play and usually happens at my desk with my laptop. This involves supporting my colleagues in establishing project plans, communicating tasks and responsibilities, developing project-related materials, completing logistical steps, drafting communication materials, attending meetings, etc. For example, for the Keep Girls in School programme, in which UNESCO is developing teacher training modules to improve Menstrual Health and Hygiene Management education in India, my responsibilities include editing the draft modules to ensure the use of gender and disability-inclusive language and assisting coordination with external contractors. Through this, I got to learn how a project life in UNESCO progresses and the agencies’ various operational procedures such as budgeting and contracting.

Second is attending meetings with Member States (MS) representatives or other UN agencies. I sometimes get to participate in such meetings, and I am learning the unique manner of diplomatic communication these meetings require. For example, I participated in the regional consultation for Education for Sustainable Development for 2030 Global Network (ESD-Net 2030). I got to see the coordination among the UNESCO field offices in the region, each country’s UNESCO focal point, and MS stakeholders.

And third is interacting with the sector’s primary ‘beneficiary’ and stakeholder – students and schools. This does not happen very often as most of the present programmes are not in the implementation phase. But I was able to interact with students from a local college when conducting the International Women’s Day campaign. This was very special to me as I got to learn from the students in the region what barriers there are toward gender equality based on their lived experiences.

Image 3: International Women’s Day Event with Local College Student Leaders

I am appreciative of these learning moments and my supervisors and colleagues for their thoughtful support at every step. I look forward to learning more as I continue my internship for the next few months!


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