A young adult’s search for independence can be a complex, harrowing process. Navigating this experience while growing up in a conflicted nation only adds to the challenge, By 1978, Beirut, the centre of Lebanon’s civil war, had become an extraordinarily dangerous place. My mother feared for the safety of her children as well as her own life. We fled Beirut and made our way towards the village of AinEbel, in Southern Lebanon. Here the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was at a start-up stage. They were in great need of staff members who could speak English. Being a fluent English speaker, I was immediately hired, and began working as a Procurement Assistant with UNIFIL in November of 1978. The instability surrounding me in my homeland of Lebanon had propelled me to join a cause working towards the building of peace.
Despite facing adversity, I remained committed to my belief that I was working for the right Organization. In April 1979, I traveled to Beirut to join my family for Easter celebrations. Upon return, however, my mission, UNIFIL, supported the deployment of the Lebanese Army to a portion of Lebanon located south of the Litani River. The coastal road from Beirut to the South was closed, and I was unable to return to my work location. Because Beirut was safer at that point, I was transferred to the UNIFIL office there, where I began working as an Administrative Assistant to the Officer in Charge .
The security situation in Beirut reverted back to chaos in 1984. Foreigners and expatriates were being targeted. UNIFIL decided to evacuate its entire international civilian staff to Naqoura, a small city in Southern Lebanon. As I was the most senior staff among the national staff members, I became the Officer in Charge of the UNIFIL Office in Beirut. It wasn’t until then that I was able to fully realize how my hard work could affect the Organization and its goals. Having such a high level of involvement in activating the beginning of the peace process in my own country was an immense privilege. But it did not come without challenges. In the 1980s, women’s empowerment in Lebanon had a long way to go. Initially, it seemed that the resources I had at hand in performing my managerial duties were very limited; however, my resilience won out. Determination and persistence helped me to deliver in the end. Our mission was very successful in the eventual execution of our mandates.
My determination continues. I have escalated in working towards a bigger cause within my current mission in Kosovo and beyond. Rounds of duty at the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda, the United Nations Mission for Referendum in Western Sahara, the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, and the United Nations Mission in Liberia have all taught me a bit more about the peace-building process. Currently, I am the Chief of the Contracts Unit within the Procurement Section of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). The contracts we outsource are critical for the efficient and effective support of our mission’s mandate. I make sure Contracts are resourced and comply with the requirements, financial rules and regulations, and Procurement Manual of the United Nations. The success of our mission depends heavily on how each staff member executes their entrusted roles and responsibilities. Success in one mission reflects positively on the United Nations as a whole. Therefore, my success will affect other endeavors in the mission all the way up the pyramid.
The conditions of conflict I experienced as a young adult now allow me to work with a sense of strength and empathy. I am better able to engage with a society deep in the throes of conflict. Ultimately, I feel that I am a more competent decision-maker, manager, and humanitarian.