Nationality

Kenya

Education

Master’s degree in French Literature, New York University, New York City, United States

Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and French, Scripps College, Claremont, United States

Languages

English, French, Luyia, Swahili

I was born and bred in Kenya, though I have spent most of my professional life working outside of Africa. I completed my university and post-graduate studies in the United States, and my first job was with the United Nations Secretariat in New York in 1979, where I started off in the Department of Public Information as a tour guide.

But the responsibility to serve my country beckoned me home, and after ten years in the US, I returned to Kenya. I joined the Kenyan Foreign Service in 1984 and worked there for sixteen years, including time in Brussels and New York. But I was destined to return to the international arena. As my career progressed, I become involved in children’s rights and there was no better place to push for this agenda than at the United Nations. In 2003, I re-joined the Organization as part of the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict in New York. The chance to provide input to and ensure the inclusion of child protection issues in United Nations reports and resolutions was a rewarding experience. The next year, I became Chief of the Gender Analysis Section, and it was my expertise in advocacy on gender issues and sexual exploitation that led to my current role as Chief of the Conduct and Discipline team in Liberia, where I have worked for the last five years.

The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) was created in 2003 to assist Liberia in restoring stability and peace following more than a decade of civil war. It employs over 8,000 military personnel, nearly 1,350 police officers and 1,430 civilian staff. Our personnel come from all over the world, and have worked with different benchmarks about what constitutes acceptable behaviour. As Chief of the Conduct and Discipline team, it’s my job to ensure that all UNMIL personnel are trained to act under a single code of conduct - the highest standards of behaviour are expected of all United Nations personnel. We train new arrivals on what is considered appropriate behaviour, and also ensure they understand the consequences of breaking either the United Nation’s rules, or the laws of our host nation.

The types of misconduct I deal with can range from minor traffic accidents to more serious allegations such as sexual harassment or sexual abuse. We have a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual exploitation and abuse by our personnel, which was underscored by the words of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “This means zero complacency. When we receive credible allegations, we ensure that they are looked into fully. It means zero impunity.”

Over the past five years, our team has worked hard to improve training and awareness programs, and allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse involving United Nations personnel have fallen. We have also established an ‘open door policy’, so that members of the public can seek advice or submit complaints easily. Raising public awareness is a big part of what we do. A few years ago, we didn’t hear much from the public but they have come to know who we are and what we are here to do. Now, we interact much more closely with the community.

I love working in the field because I enjoy dealing with people and seeing the immediate impact my help can have on their lives. It takes patience and experience to really understand what motivates someone to do what he or she does, so my advice to people seeking a career at the United Nations is; be open-minded. It is important not to have preconceived notions of what should and shouldn’t happen in a situation, especially when you are working in another culture. You must exercise common sense and kindness, and address every issue based on its own circumstances. The flexibility not to judge people, or make decisions without hearing both sides of the story, requires an open mind, and has been critical to my role as a Chief of the Conduct and Discipline team.

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