Women in Diplomacy

Working towards change enhances my career in the UN


Ameera Al Hassan, with a (PhD) in Sustainable Architecture and Role of Policy Making and Endusers (Newcastle University) is the first Kuwaiti woman leading a UN programme in Kuwait and GCC. As the UN Habitat Programme Manager for the region Ameera is creating change and tangible results. Soft spoken and determined Ameera spoke to The Times, Kuwait managing editor about her work and role for a better future.

Can u please tell us a little bit about your background and how did you decide into working for the United Nations

My experience as sustainability expert and my Phd research theme enabled me to work efficiently for the UN-Habitat which is a United Nation program mandated in issues pertaining Sustainable Urban Development; United Nations Human Settlement Program Habitat , UN-Habitat.

The UN-Habitat aims at helping cities dwellers to create a better urban future in their cities realizing Agenda2030 seventeen Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda.

My long experience on ways to implement sustainable development goals at a personal and societal level inside our cities leading for achieving environmental, economic and social sustainability encouraged me to join UN-Habitat at first on 2009 when I was a PhD reader as an intern, and through out the years until present time I have worked to enrich my experience on the UN rules and regulations.

What are the responsibilities you undertook so far

My roles and responsibilities varied throughout the past decade since I joined UNH in 2009 until I was officially appointed as UN Habitat Program Manager and Analyst for the GCC region in Kuwait on 2019. I was tasked to do different assignments as years progressed starting from corresponding with our stakeholders inside and outside Kuwait, preparation process of the National Reports of the GCC countries, capacity building activities at Gulf and Arab regional level, reaching to donors for IDPs and refugees in the region, preparation and carrying out conferences and ministerial meetings, activities designed and conducted for people with special needs, youth and women and other activities related to achieving SDG11 designed for experts at Gulf states and Arab region.

What challenges you faced as a woman and how easy/difficult do you think women are able to work in this profession

I believe as the first Kuwaiti woman leading a UN program in Kuwait, my main challenge is carrying out a project aiming to mitigate the effect of climate change and achieving sustainable urban development in Kuwait and other Gulf countries.

Gender equality is yet to be achieved on leadership level in the UN organisations. We still have a long way to walk since women are less than men in terms of both number and wages. Highly educated women do not have same opportunity as highly educated men. Moreover, my challenge is leaving a legacy behind for Gulf women to follow as Gulf women are very low in number in the UN system, not because of lack of qualification, but in fact because they need to step forward and take action.

Besides that, as the world is facing climate change effect we need to implement projects that aim at mitigating the effect of climate change on the Gulf states as well as other Arab countries. This includes zero energy, improving energy efficiency products, solid waste management. We need to eliminate the effect of climate change on the public health, therefore, as I see it, it is my duty to encourage people to plant more and more trees on each passing day to contribute in improving the general environment.

There is a Chinese proverb; the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago! This shows you how important the tree is, and by planting the open public spaces we are in fact contributing in both the physical and psychological health of the general public.

With Covid-19 response plan, a new challenge has risen as women make up 75% of the medical and human aids; helping at societal and state level which maintaining healthy family atmosphere became a priority as well as an essential element for survival..

What do you enjoy most working for the United Nations

Creating change and tangible results is the most joyful thing in working for the UN… You commence a project aiming at changing a situation and once you are done, you look back to it with total pride and sense of achievement. Seeing people laugh happily when they receive their newly refurbished houses is incredibly fun. I enjoy meeting up with new people at different levels from presidents of states to prime ministers, ministers and members of the public and vulnerable people and learning from them.

It is such a wonderful experience preparing a new project, resource allocation and preparing  implementation strategy, then there are different stakeholders and partners and achieving the desired result.  Raising funds for a cause and achieving your target are very hard work and yet very rewarding mentally.

Tell us about your  experience in Kuwait working in the United

Nations and also the tasks you undertake in getting the job done. I have started working for the UNH on 2009 and since then I was officially recruited and developed a long experience. At present being a program manager and analyst involves creating an annual work plan for the office that should link up between each GCC country strategy, the UN Agenda 2030 and the New Urban Agenda, setting a time line, actual implementation and reporting.

Moreover, I have to link up with other organizations under ONE UN theme, collaborate with other partners at governmental and none-governmental level. Our vision includes involving Youth, Women, Vulnerable groups, NGOs and private sector achieving SDG17 where possible in our projects. Therefore, over the course of the past decade I have met up with new partners and succeeded in creating continuous bounds with them

Where do you see yourself in the coming years in your career.

My ambition knows no boundaries; in the coming years my vision is to grow the UN Habitat role while achieving new milestones. While doing so, I will be reaching tangible results and create a legacy to become a role model to other Arab women follow in the UN. As a Kuwaiti citizen, my vision is to get appointed in a new post which no other Kuwaiti woman previously was recruited in and this in itself will be a kick start for my peers to consider working for the UN in larger numbers and climbing the success ladder.

Do you think more women from Kuwait should join international organisations.

Yes I do. We need more women from Kuwait and GCC countries get appointed in UN posts because they don’t lack the experience or academic requirements. Only they need to take the challenge to prove to the world they can achieve success. Already we have Gulf women become medical and academic doctors, engineers, artists, singers, teachers and even pilots, but until present time we face shortage in number of Gulf and Kuwaiti women working for the UN different organizations and in the UNH.

How has your job help connect people and bring them together

Yes. In many ways, we work for humanity, linking donors with vulnerable people. Our work is based on the fact that nations all over the world face different kinds of challenges depending on their geographical location; some nations face famine and poverty, while others suffer from pandemics and diseases, natural catastrophes or wars. For us at the UN, we don’t work on basis of race, religion or gender, but rather we respond to nations needs and do our best to respond fast because time is a very important factor. Using our expertise, we carry out different projects linking donors with the end users.

What are your past times / hobbies

I love watching movies, but because of time restrictions I watch movies sometimes during my mission flights. My other hobbies include hiking, mountaineering, playing squash and learning new words in new languages. I like attending public talks, learning new information and travelling to discover historical places.

Any experience you would like to share with 

My most precious experience is the ones related to humanitarian work, but let me talk about other sides of my personality. Since my undergraduate years until present time, I have worked in different jobs at full time and part time bases, for example I have worked as university journal editor and correspondent for some time, I volunteered as a microbiology lab technician in Ibn Sina Hospital in Kuwait during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on 1990.

I also worked as a high school teacher, a University professor , a puppeteer and a scientific researcher. I am good at drawing but I can never sing! I believe there are no limits to human’s capabilities and we only need to explore our hidden talents.

I became a mountaineer during my post graduate years and I had the chance to do live translation for a famous cable news channel. Moreover, in 1997 I read a conference closing statement in Spanish in Mallorca, Spain.

I have plenty of stories to tell about myself, but this does not mean I don’t want to learn and experience new things in the coming years as I join new posts or at personal level.

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