Guest blog and photos by Jennifer Toby
My four year journey on UNICEF Canada’s The 25th Team was a deep dive into the realities facing an NGO working on complex development issues. Through experiential learning and engagement with carefully selected, high impact projects, this was a unique opportunity to be a part of the solution to deep seated problems. Friendships developed between women from across Canada as our journey took us literally around the world - in my case to Indonesia, Ethiopia, Denmark and the UNGA in New York City. Along the way I deepened my understanding of myself and the world.
UNICEF operates at the crucial intersection of pragmatic service provider and an advocate for sustainable solutions for women and children. By delivering programs in health clinics, schools and communities for decades, UNICEF has the depth of knowledge and experience to work with governments to change the laws and policies necessary to create sustainable, long term change.
One of my key realizations was the deep respect and appreciation that people and governments around the world have for UNICEF and the essential role the organization plays in moving the agenda for women and children forward. Support of individuals and local groups is essential, however, for systemic change, legal and policy advocacy work is necessary. I am proud to be engaged with an organization that is working toward a better future for literally millions of women and children.
My trip to Indonesia in late 2016 was a revelation. Well organized and executed, the trip gave insight to UNICEF’s value in the field. UNICEF worked with a multitude of partners to develop a program to address poor teen nutrition in Jakarta and rural communities. The innovative and pragmatic approach was so successful that the Indonesian government rolled out the project before the pilot project was complete. The trip to Ethiopia this spring was to see results of the birth registration project that is currently underway. We spent a fascinating day in a mountain village as the community held multi-faceted discussions about early child marriage. The community is facing complex challenges and making its way forward through respectful, calm discussion and communal wisdom. Watching the day unfold was an experience none of us will forget. I have tried to capture our beautifully complex trip to Ethiopia in the photos and poems below.
From the moment I heard about UNICEF Canada’s The 25th Team, I was in.
My experience has proven to be everything that I hoped for, and more.
To read more about Jennifer’s experiences with The 25th Team, click here for Part 2.