Welcome to the Jungle

Welcome to my first update on moving to New York! As many of you know, I recently moved from Paris to New York to work in the Executive Office of the Secretary General at the United Nations. This past week has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life as I arrived just in time to start working on the launch of the Post 2015 Agenda. The Post 2015 Agenda marks the end of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were adopted by the UN in 2000 and the beginning of a new era of development goals. These new goals, called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), continue the work of the MDGs and give the world until 2030 to end global poverty and hunger among the world’s poorest populations, in addition to 15 other goals.

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The goals, which were developed over the last year, were formally adopted by the UN member states on Friday, September 25th, 2015 at the UN Sustainable Development Summit. My team, which works primarily with Goal #2–Zero Hunger by 2030–was therefore extremely busy this week preparing for the Summit which had back to back sessions for three days. In addition, this year is the 70th UN General Assembly (where all the member states gather to adopt a formal agenda for the following year) which immediately follows the Sustainable Development Summit and continues for three weeks. But the work doesn’t stop there. Once the UNGA finishes, my team and I will be working non-stop until December preparing for the UN Climate Change Conference which encompasses all the Sustainable Development Goals, not only Climate Action (#13), and will take place in Paris. I can already tell, It’s going to be a long three months.

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And yet, even though I am exhausted, sleep-deprived and have yet to find an apartment, I feel tremendously fortunate to be  here in New York, working at the UN at just 25-years-old. As a bi-racial, Arab-American woman, I have known for a long time that I wanted to work in a multi-cultural environment on issues related to global development, gender equality, and poverty reduction; but I never once thought I deserved praise or recognition for wanting to do this kind of work. And yet, in the last few days I have been thanked repeatedly by my boss (a Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General), the Secretary General himself, and the Pope (!) just for doing what I always wanted to do: granting those who are less fortunate visibility, a voice, and a platform to incite change. I have been extremely humbled by how many world leaders, celebrities, and diplomats have thanked me personally or addressed the UN staff to say thank you for what we do, and that the everyday lives of citizens around the world are positively impacted by us coming to work each day. It really makes me feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, and that my goals and dreams of truly having an impact on this planet are on the way to being realized.

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But I dream about more than helping those less fortunate than me, I also want to inspire young women that they can be leaders and incite change. The best way for me to do this is, of course, by setting the example and becoming a leader myself. I already feel that I lead in certain aspects of my life: I am a proud feminist, I spend time and focus energy on women’s rights and rights  of the poor (two issues that matter very much to me), I spend time with men and women that treat me well and build me up, and I know my worth. And while I know I am young and it takes time, I have yet to rise to a leadership position or be offered the opportunity to lead in some aspect of my career. Whats worse, I feel like I have been highly discouraged by the fact that I rarely saw women in leadership roles at my last job (as most of the women there were secretaries or assistants of some kind). This did nothing for my self-esteem, nor did it drive me to work harder for a position I knew I was never going to get.

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But in the past week in New York, and especially at the UN, I have seen women of all ages, sexual orientations, and races lead their teams as well as any man. On Saturday night, at our celebratory drinks (because the Summit is over–yay!), I saw the Head of the World Food Programme, a black, African American woman, tell the rest of us that one woman had done such a fantastic job over the last few months that they were promoting her to Director of Gender and Empowerment at the WFP.  The woman who received the promotion was a black, African woman. Words cannot describe how powerful this moment was to me as a young, mixed woman, looking for role models and mentors in my career field. In that moment, I felt so lucky to be in this city and this organization where I feel like I matter and I am valued.

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At this point, I just want to point out that in this sense, the Sustainable Development Goals aren’t just about people halfway across the world who live on less than a dollar a day. They are especially about those people, because we owe them so much more than what they currently have, but they’re also about us, the people who live in “developed” countries, because we should do better for us too. In this day in age, I shouldn’t have to prove that I’m as good as a man at leading just because I’m a woman and I shouldn’t have to do the same job as a man and make less money.

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So, after a long but memorable week, I’d just like to say thank you to all the people that have helped me get here–because I am so grateful and thankful that I am here.  By that I mean the people who donated to my GoFundMe account, the people who shared my post on Facebook, the people who have housed me, the people who encouraged me in my past jobs and internships to work hard because eventually I’d get to where I wanted to be, my friends who is tell me day in and day out that I’m gonna be make it one day, my grandparents for helping me financially (by giving me the largest donation) and supporting me emotionally, my sisters and brother who’ve encouraged me since as long as I remember to be my best self, and finally my parents who probably hate the idea of me moving to New York on such short notice and unstable conditions but supported me nonetheless. SO THANK YOU! I’m really loving it out here and I am so grateful and thankful for you guys, you’ve really helped make my dreams come true! More updates soon!

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Now–I can’t really explain what this week has been like, but here are some of my favorite moments that have been captured throughout this week. I hope they give you a sense of the energy and excitement that I’ve experienced in the past few days because it really has been a trip!

I did get to see a lot of the heads of state and celebrities speak, which was so amazing. I didn’t get to go to the Global Citizen concert because you cannot actually buy tickets–you have to win them. You can do this by volunteering throughout the year or posting certain things on your social media apps which gives you points. If you get enough points, you win concert tickets, which is a great way to get involved and see artists like Beyoncé, Coldplay, PearlJam, Ed Sheeran, Ariana Grande, Common, and Bono for free! Check out https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/ to find out more.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Sandrine Godt says:

    Bravo Anissa! So inspiring! Unfortunately, when I was your age, such opportunities weren’t available, otherwise I, too, would have followed a similar path… So, you go girl, be that leader who will make a difference!! Best wishes!

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