A joint post by Dr Julieta Marotta & Abigail Daley
“Because women have an incredible amount of power that should not be ignored when it comes to building a sustainable future.”
International Women’s Day gives us a yearly moment to reflect on gender equality and remind ourselves of our progress and the progress we still need to make. The Master of Science programme in Public Policy and Human Development (MPP), with the support of UNU-MERIT, emphasises its commitment to gender equality by taking direct action in the presence of women in education, their role in leadership, and the further steps society needs to take to welcome their contributions.
This academic year, we celebrate the following highlights:
October: UNU-MERIT announced Professor Franziska Gassmann as Head of the Graduate School.
November: The MPP Programme Board stressed the need for all MPP students and staff to study in a safe environment that facilitates learning and to know what resources are available when they feel this is not the case.
The MPP Board created and distributed the Sexual Harassment Awareness Document among students and staff. The MPP Academic Programme Director, the UNU-MERIT Gender Officer, and MPP Study Advisor then held an event to provide clear definitions for sexual harassment and abuse. They further outlined the resources listed in the document.
January: The MPP Programme Board and select administrative staff piloted the UNICEF training course “Prevention of sexual harassment and abuse of authority”.
“Ensuring staff are trained on what constitutes inappropriate behaviour and can step in to correct when a line has been crossed further protects a comfortable and informed workplace and learning place, which benefits staff and students alike,” said Abigail Daley, Assistant to the Programme Director.
February: UNU-MERIT Director Prof Bartel Van de Walle recognised our institute’s women researchers on 11 February, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.
“UNU-MERIT is fortunate to have so many excellent women in research among our PhD fellows, junior and senior researchers, teachers and academic staff. Over the past year, several new research leadership positions at the institute have been taken on by female colleagues: head of a research unit, head of the graduate school, and the capacity development office. Three out of four Comprehensive Innovation teams and our PhD programme and MPP programme are today led by women.
To every #womeninscience at UNU-MERIT: thank you for your many contributions to the success of the institute!”
Building a sustainable future
The MPP programme and UNU-MERIT equip our students to be allies for gender equality in their future workplaces. Two alumnae share their commitment.
Lisa de Graaf, MPP 2020 Cohort
“I am now doing an internship at the TaskForce for Gender Equality and Women’s Rights at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign affairs. International Women’s Day is highly celebrated in my current environment, as should it be in any setting! Because women have an incredible amount of power that should not be ignored when it comes to building a sustainable future.
Time and again, it has been proven that including women in any decision-making process is an investment for the prosperity of people and the planet. Therefore, what I think is missing in gender development is recognising the importance of gender equality and the link it has with many development issues on all levels of society. This includes engaging men and boys in the conversation and education on the topic.
However, we should not forget how many things should be celebrated on this day. We should take a moment to appreciate all the amazing women that already contribute to the fight for gender equality and development as a whole. It is no wonder that the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day reads “Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow” because women hold an incredible amount of power through knowledge and character. They already are pioneers and indispensable in creating a sustainable future. Empowered women empower us all.”
Lisa works as an Intern for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Marianne Siede, MPP 2019 Cohort
“Happy International Women’s Day!
Along with my fellow peers, I was the first cohort that graduated during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a time when everything was new and uncertain. Yet, what helped us persevere and complete our degree was the unity we felt and the fantastic support we had for each other. In particular, the sisterhood of the MPP was my source of strength and energy. A lot of time has passed since then, and today we feel another threat and time of uncertainty, though this time, the virus is called aggression and spreads through the violence of war in Eastern Europe. Alas, people who identify themselves as women, children, and queer are particularly now vulnerable and most threatened. This is not a new phenomenon but a structural problem deeply rooted in a system oppressing and marginalising specific people.
In the past years, I was able to work on a civil society level towards women’s empowerment in Ethiopia. The most crucial revelation I had was how significant the impact of the work on the ground is. Today, I work in a cross-country project that aims to empower feminist civil society organisations for advocacy efforts to start structured dialogues on sexual, gender-based violence with regional and political actors. Ultimately, the objective is to integrate the issue into existing governmental and non-governmental processes. When asked, “What is still missing in gender development?” my answer is the diverse and intersectional approach! I urge all “big” donors, agencies and political leaders to listen to more, support and invite more women and gender civil society groups to join their impactful and powerful decision-making processes.
I wish society to challenge the status quo, as we did in 2020. Let this moment open our eyes and hearts to reflect that we must show solidarity; today, tomorrow, and already yesterday! Today and always, we should celebrate our sisterhood and unity across borders and throughout the globe.”
Marianne works as a Project Manager for Medica Mondiale, MPP 2019 Cohort.
Though there is a long way to go, we are proud of all people, regardless of gender, who have been instrumental in making the classroom and workspace an inclusive space for students, colleagues, and community members.
“We commit to continue contributing to the achievement of SDG#5 because when we ensure gender equality, we ensure that more voices are heard and considered to achieve democratic societal good,” reflects Dr Julieta Marotta, Academic Programme Director.
The opinions expressed here are the author’s own; they do not necessarily reflect the views of UNU.