A coffee in my hand from the cafeteria of the press club at the United Nations was my morning routine for 3 weeks during the 35thsession ofthe Human Rights Council (HRC). I enjoyed accessing the United Nations Office from the side where flags of member states are displayed and I would stare at the green, gold, red of the flag of Mali with a beautiful smile. I was honored to represent my country in Geneva after being selected for the African Women Ambassador Internship Programme, through a competitive procedure, where I worked at the Embassy and Permanent Mission of Mali to the United Nations. This 3 month internship programme is an opportunity for young African women to have an exposure to the work of international organizations and to decision-making mechanisms. This year, I was selected along with four other interns from Djibouti, Namibia, Sierra Leone and Zambia. Through this internship, I was able to achieve a goal I had set for myself after graduating from university, to have experience working in an international organization abroad.
Sitting in alphabetical order, according to the names of the countries, in the room where the main sessions of the Human Rights Council took place, it was so impressive to observe the member states negotiating, taking position, and making declarations for the interests of their citizens and according to their values . The last two days of the council were the most intense: Statements were devoted to denouncing violations of Human Rights in neighboring countries, to amending resolutions and to proposing new ones.
The World YWCA convened a youth forum in preparation for the HRC at the United Nations and attending it was such a great moment for me because the forum gave youth a voice. Around 100 young people participated and together drafted a declaration calling for the participation and inclusion of young people within decision-making processes.
At the Mission of Mali, I was greeted by a cheerful and kind staff available to answer my questions and teach me more. I have repeatedly attended conferences or external meetings at the request of my ambassador with whom I discussed and put together my weekly program. During these meetings, I took notes of what was said and used them to better understand the context of the interventions. I also took part in a meeting of different groups at the World Trade Organization where negotiations are made according to the interests of the represented countries. Mali chaired group C4, a committee of African countries that produce and export cotton.
The 70th World Assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO) at the United Nations, which was held from the 22 to 31 of May 2017, was one of my best experiences. The Assembly is an annual meeting of Member States to discuss the Political and financial orientations of the Organization and hold elections for different positions within the organization. This year a new director was elected, the African candidate heading the WHO, hourra for Africa and its leadership.
I especially appreciated the 106th International Conference held by the International Labor Organization (ILO), during which the work conditions of labourers were discussed. This conference ended with a special summit on women’s work in order to shape a better future for women who face in equality in the workplace. Geneva is a beautiful city rich in its cultural diversity, calm and peaceful. What has marked me is the difference within organizations between theory and practice. The system of organization and ways of work in Mali are really different. My program was rich in learning, but also visits, all coordinated by the World YWCA and funded by the Australian Mission. I visited Bern with the other interns, which is the capital city of Switzerland and CERN, the European Nuclear Research Center.
This is one of the best experiences I ever had; it allowed me to have exposure to the professional work environment as an intern at the diplomatic mission of Mali. I have acquired a good practical experience in the organizational field, I only knew theory. I now know the importance of diplomacy in creating collaborative relations. I learned that to be diplomatic, one needs to choose the right words when dealing with others. This deepened my interest in the working life and I realized that school prepares us for work but the ground is another reality. It is an environment that promotes the desire to progress and discover more. I hope that other young women will benefit from this program because it is a good learning experience.
By Aissa Traore
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