New York, July 31, 2014 – The HOIMA (How I Make A Difference) organization working in partnership with UNICEF and United Nations Association of Young Professionals, African Affairs Committee, organized a first of its kind career development info session on UNICEF New and Emerging Talent Initiative (NETI) program. The forum held at the Permanent Observer Mission, African Union to the United Nations in New York City, focused on raising awareness about the NETI program and seeking to increase the applicant pool from program countries, more specifically African nationals.
The founder of HOIMA, Mariama C. Keita moderated the program, which featured panel members Fatoumata Ndiaye, Director at the Office of Internal Audit and Investigations, Antonino Brusa, Chief Mobility and Staffing Section at the Division of Human Resources, and Mabelle Chua, Human Resource Officer at the New Talent Unit of UNICEF. As many organizations are faced with the need of increasing recruitment of women and underrepresented nationals in career development programs, HOIMA specializes in preparing women of color, African Diaspora and nationals, for competitive internship and fellowship programs. This also includes, entry level to mid-career programs primarily in international development, public and social sectors.
The opening remarks were kicked off by Keita. She described her personal commitment to investing in Africa’s human capital and empowering women and girls through organizing specialized career development workshops. Keita is also a Communication consultant for UNICEF and takes pride in being an expert in navigating the school to work transition process and developing raw talent to secure global and professional job opportunities.
Her apprenticeship credentials include working as a White House intern under the Obama administration, a fellow for UNAIDS, and a former UNICEF volunteer. Keita said, “Developing a strategy and securing real-world work experiences prior to graduation, transforms, propel, and gives you the foundation to develop professional skills and have a career path of infinite opportunities and possibilities.” Due to her extensive list of achievements she said, “I believe it is my responsibility to transfer this knowledge and give back.” She also stressed the importance of having mentorship programs geared towards helping young women get “their foot in the door.” During the workshop, Keita acknowledged her mentor in the room, former Ambassador to the Permanent Mission of Kenya to the United Nations and current Chief of External Relations at UNFPA, Dr. Josephine Ojiambo.
The workshop covered in great detail how best to apply for the NETI program and addressed an audience of 150 attendees with Masters, Juris Doctorate and Doctorate degrees representing leading institutions that include: New York University Center for Global Affairs, Harvard University, Council on Foreign Relations, American Express, UNFPA, Booz Allen Hamilton, Wilson Center, Malaria No More and Peace Corps just to name a few. The panel discussion was followed by an engaging Q&A session.
The co-organizer Orobosa Owie, Director of African Affairs Committee at the United Nations Association of Young Professionals, also shared her sentiments about the occasion. “This kind of program is needed, for it raises more awareness about leading multinational organization interests in recruiting dynamic young professionals, in particular underrepresented populations. It’s highly important as an African women and member of the Diaspora to come and host a program that supports the recruitment of African people.”
The one hour and half long program ended with a question from Maxine Mahugu, a Research Consultant from the Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund (SMWF). This international, independent, charitable organization was established in 2007 by a group of concerned women from around the world, in honor of the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – Africa’s first woman president and herself the granddaughter of a market woman.
Mahugu asked the panel, “Given the number of years the panel has alluded to working with UNICEF, and their education and background, what is it about UNICEF that continues to keep you committed to working for the organization? The response given from Senegalese native and panelist Ms. Ndiaye who spent over a decade at UNICEF, left the room speechless by describing her personal testimony and commitment to UNICEF mission and values then concluding with, “This is the reason we get up in the morning.”
The takeaway for Mahugu was that, "I witnessed a forum that was designed to hone in on African talent.” She summed up the night by highlighting she learned a lot about the recruitment process from Ms. Chua engaging presentation and at the same time, networked with executives as well as colleagues who care. “I now know what steps I need to take now to be where I want to be in the future," said Mahugu.
Prior to Owie giving closing remarks, Keita thanked Eden Fekade, UNICEF HR Consultant and former NYU graduate school classmate and colleague for being the driving force behind the scenes. “Tonight was a collaborative effort of three African women from the Diaspora representing Ethiopia, Guinea and Nigeria, who remain passionate about their place of origin and decided to put our heads together to do something that would be monumental and transformational.”