UNRWA launches important new initiative on International Women’s Day

08 March 2019
© 2018 UNRWA Photo

CG message to staff - International Women's Day   

The 8th of March is a unique opportunity to celebrate the remarkable contribution of UNRWA’s female staff, both Palestinian and International. Their professionalism, sense of initiative and skills are a source of inspiration to me throughout the year. From social workers to directors, from school principals to administrative staff, from doctors to counselors and many others, women in the Agency are decisive in delivering our services to Palestine refugees day in, day out.

The same is true for female Palestine refugees. I wish to pay tribute to them, be they community leaders, entrepreneurs, heads of household, parents or more. They carry major responsibilities and display great courage in the face of immense adversity and lack of horizon.

The strongest message of self-confidence and determination comes from the hundreds of thousands of girls in UNRWA schools. A special commitment from our side is to maintain their access to education and to provide them with the tools to play an important role in their society and on a global stage.

Inside UNRWA, we are taking a number of steps to improve and attain gender parity, so it is not just about charts and numbers, but very crucially about how we conceive of the workplace and change it. An example of measures aimed at enhancing family-friendly policies were the inauguration of the first UNRWA lactation space at our West Bank field office to afford female staff members with a friendly, clean and safe space for lactation. This pioneering initiative was again introduced in 2018 at HQ Amman in accordance with the UN guidelines. The Human Resources Department will now work closely with respective Field Directors in Lebanon, Jordan, Gaza and Syria field to have the same spaces opened during 2019.

Fostering a culture supportive of work-life balance and flexibility continues to be one of the priorities through 2019. This week on 8 March, UNRWA will launch a pilot project initiative aimed at supporting the gradual return and reintegration of women at the work-place following the end of their maternity leave. For the first six months, post-maternity leave, staff members will have the opportunity to work on an 80% basis (i.e. 4 days a week instead of 5), while being paid on a 100% basis.

UNRWA is proud to be the first agency in the UN common system to launch this initiative in support and recognition of the important role that women play in our Agency.

For many women, flexibility is a key factor as they consider whether and how to juggle their career advancement with family aspirations particularly after the birth of a child. Our initiative aims to produce the necessary time-off for staff to care for themselves and their families with expected benefits including reduced stress, a greater sense of control, a pleasant work environment and the ability to better integrate a healthy lifestyle into daily routine. We sincerely hope it will also have a positive impact on staff members’ morale, including an improved job satisfaction and engagement.

Our colleagues in the Human Resources Department will issue the necessary technical instructions and detailed procedures for all staff members with an effective date of implementation of 1st of April 2019.

Working towards gender parity and an improved working environment is a responsibility of each and every one of us, man and woman. Increased diversity in our team, at all levels, improves our collective intelligence and the quality of our response to the needs of refugees.

With sincere regards to and deep respect for all our female colleagues,


Pierre Krähenbühl

Background Information: 

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA programme budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s programme budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals. UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5.4 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.

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