You’ll find answers to all of these questions and many more by reading comments from Faculty of Social Sciences interns on this blog. Students posted all around the world will share their experience, challenges and success stories with readers. Please visit this blog regularly to find out about their adventures!
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Stéphane, Joint Honours in Communication and in Political Science
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Bangladesh
Summer 2020 has been exceptionally different to say the least. While the entire world is trying to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, we’ve all had to adjust to new ways of living. During this unprecedented period of time, I was given the opportunity to remotely intern with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Bangladesh. My internship placement was mandated by United Nations Associations in Canada. I was very pleased to hear of the placement opportunity mainly because I had intended to travel abroad and complete another internship before it was cancelled due to the pandemic.
I’m actually really fortunate that Bangladesh was my host country and gave me the opportunity to completely recognize and appreciate the ultra-important mandate of UNFPA. In essence, the United Nations Population Fund is the leading UN agency designed to improve and protect sexual and reproductive health and rights across the world. The key mandate for UNFPA is to “deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, where every childbirth is safe and where young people can fulfill their full potential”. In many ways, Bangladesh is a focal point of the organization’s mission. It’s a growing country with a lot of young people. Unfortunately, in Bangladesh women don’t always have safe places to give birth as access to essential resources isn't available to everyone. Also, the rate of child marriages is one of the highest in the world which leads to girls not given opportunities to go to school, which leads to poverty and in turn contributes to the “low status” of women. This also leads to what I can consider as forced pregnancies, or unwanted pregnancies. UNFPA is fighting to implement accessible resources to young girls and women in those situations.
My internship with the United Nations Population Fund in Bangladesh was a very unique experience in which I learned a lot about myself, the organization, and what goes behind coordinating content to promote UNFPA’s strategies and activities. As a communications officer, I was tasked with multiple short-term assignments that allowed me to have a hand in proofreading published content, media compilation analysis and event management. Although I was remotely working from the comfort of my home, here in Gatineau, I was able to expand my interpersonal skills as a result of being restricted to virtual interactions. Nevertheless, this unique work setting presented its share of challenges along the way, the hardest being the ten hours’ time difference between Dhaka and Gatineau. It forced my hand into expanding and developing time management skills, mainly by organizing my time in order to efficiently work, reducing interruptions and managing stress.
At the beginning of my internship with UNFPA Bangladesh, the first couple tasks were to simply familiarize myself with the organization. I spend countless hours reviewing data and communications provided by UNFPA on their website and social media platforms. As a member of the communication team, I’m working with various UNFPA’s sections to effectively communicate the core message of the agency throughout every social platform and information release. Recently, I’ve been given the task to revise and modify the Gender Equality Movement in Schools (GEMS) curriculum manual and to improve the quality of the document. The manual was originally written in Bengali and translated into English and needed to be upgraded. This project is managed by UNFPA’s Adolescent and Youth leadership team. This was truly unique as I had an important hand in editing a large document which is basically a core element of UNFPA. To be honest, this was quite stressful mainly because I was at first very hesitant to modify the document in its entirety, and most importantly, I had a deadline to meet. I went back and forth, and spent a lot of time revisiting sentence structures and trying to improve them.
Moreover, I’ve had the opportunity to experience the work that goes behind the official e-launch of the State of the World Population report (SWOP). The annual SWOP report is UNFPA’s flagship publication on the state of the population and every year the focus is on specific issues and themes. The 2020 publication, entitled “Against My Will” is focused on the types of harmful practices against women and girls. Particularly, the three widespread harmful practices: female genital mutilation, child marriage and son preference. As part of the communication team, I was tasked with compiling numerous articles and news coverage of this year’s publication. This media monitoring allows us to collect data, provides us with an overview and understanding of how the report was perceived. This was a very interesting task mainly because it allowed me to familiarize myself with Bangladeshis news outlets, for future tasks (see section about the signing event). Furthermore, I had the opportunity to draft the official press release in regards to the announcement that UNFPA and the government of Sweden were collaborating in COVID-19 response and program development.
Most importantly, I’ve really appreciated the opportunity UNFPA Bangladesh has given me to expand my work experience despite the logistical challenges in this unprecedented moment in time. Working with the communications team has been absolutely amazing, even though I wish the circumstances were different.