International Women’s Day 2018

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International Women’s Day 2018 focuses particularly on dignity and justice for women.

The UN theme for International Women’s Day is the celebration of appreciation, love and respect toward women. The Staff Welfare Office interviewed Makiha Kimura, a Japanese Associate Humanitarian Affairs Officer currently based in Chad. Makiha is just one of many dedicated, self-sacrificing humanitarian women in OCHA. What makes her different?

Makiha, whose grandmother was a survivor of the Hiroshima bomb, speaks openly about the need for self-care, not only to prevent burnout, but to flourish on all levels. Humanitarians, by definition, take care of other’s needs. As all mothers know, taking care of children well requires that the caregiver first take care of herself (himself). The perfect metaphor can be heard during an airplane’s safety procedures where the caregiver is instructed to put her (his) oxygen mask on first before attempting to help others. Makiha explains that self-care is not especially emphasized in her culture. This was a concept that she learned through trial and error.  She knows that it is important to reach out for help when facing challenges in private life or work-related (men are 4 times less likely to seek help as per known medical sources ) .  She then realized that it is the strong humanitarians who seek counseling when needed. Makiha states that she now understands what she needs to do to maintain her continuing life balance.

Makiha states that she loves her job as a humanitarian because she is always challenged to reconsider her attitudes and her perspectives. She enjoys finding fresh solutions in her personal and professional life but this often requires turning a situation to see it from a new angle.

Makiha explains that she has witnessed inspiring solutions coming about when women are simply put to the task. She recounts a story of a time when she was in Inke, Congo. There, refugees and locals, of completely different languages and traditions, were in a bit of a deadlock about land use and natural resources. Makiha and her colleagues decided to facilitate meetings of the women. The first complication was to find a time when the women could take a break from their daily duties of transporting water, farming, cooking, going to market to sell their products and feeding their families. Once the meeting in place the two groups found their own common ground singing, dancing and learning to care for each other’s stray chickens. Makiha speaks of the beautiful surprises in the strong will of women to get along. At times, it is sufficient just to observe the elegance.