International Women’s Day

Opening Remarks


Darline Giraud Co-Founder WUNABN addresses participants at the WUNABN International Women’s Day 2018 conference. (Photographer: Christine Benally Peranteau)

(as prepared for delivery)

Good morning and welcome to WUNABN Women’s Day event. I am Darline Giraud Co-founder of WUNABN, Married, Mother of three and Project Manager.  I would like to open this event by speaking about power and empowerment and how both led me here today to press for progress towards gender parity at the United Nations.

My journey to obtain a position at the UN started 5 years ago when a friend of mine who at the time was a staff member at the UN  encourage me to apply after I told him, it always has been a dream of mine to work for a model organization like the UN and contribute to its primary mission, “of world peace”.

It took me a while to find a vacancy matching my experiences and then additional time to complete and submit the application, by the deadline. After I finally applied, I had no word for months about my candidature, my application stayed in the same status on the application system. Just when I was about to give up, I got an email, stating you have been shortlisted and you have to complete an assessment interview. I prepared and rehearsed, had the interview.

Almost a year had gone by when I received the automated HR letter, that basically stated, “you didn’t get the job”.  This scenario happened three times within a span of 3 years without any direct feedback from the agency I was applying to. So when that agency posted on LinkedIn that they were having a conference and you can speak to an HR representative. I didn’t hesitate to get on the plane and attend the conference.  When I couldn’t get a direct answer at the conference venue. I took the bold move and requested a meeting with HR representative. Still, that got me nowhere and I felt powerless. Another year went by, then there was a second conference announcement targeting women who want to work at the UN. By now you can tell that I am a persistent person.

I went to this conference seeking feedback on my application, however that conference changed my perspective about the UN and introduced me the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I became empowered. I learned the importance of SDGs’ Goal number 5 on achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. At the end of that conference, the moderator asked each participant to make a pledge on how they would, in their own capacity, using our individual power to achieve gender parity.

Naturally, as a project manager, I proposed a project to two other women that I met at the conference who were in the same boat, Cecilia and Eleonora. This lead to the establishment of this support & confidence-building network to encourage women to apply and remain in the application process where we identified the need in order to one day reach SDG #5 of 50% women in leadership.  The press for Women at the UN – Accountability Buddy Network. It’s a bold name because we weren’t there but yet we labeled ourselves as getting people there. Wave one of our case study and support has gotten some of us on the inside that continue to support us and the UN SDGs.

My personal motto is, in order to become or achieve something you must first mindfully claim it.  Since Cecilia’s background is in research, we launched a case study to collect and document practical examples of what is effective and less effective within the current United Nations employment process from the perspective of the women applicants. To bring to light the number of women that were experiencing the same roadblock and to ultimately share our findings under one umbrella with UN bodies in order to have an impact on the persistent under-representation of women at the UN, as I had committed to doing at the SDG conference that had empowered me.

Today we are here! 75 participants at this conference and over 300 online pressing for progress towards gender parity at the United Nations. That’s a demonstration of collective power and empowerment.

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres launched the “System-wide strategy on gender parity” at United Nations in mid-September 2017. It’s a bold move to achieve gender parity by 2028 / 2030 throughout the UN system. We have already seen the changes this year at the highest level for the first time in history, the United Nations has achieved gender parity among its senior leaders — now 23 women and 21 men. At the Professional level, 1 and Professional level 2 the UN has already achieved Gender Parity.

The real challenge is in the middle at P3 – and above, at the managerial and leadership levels. According to the last estimates published by UN Women, the agency responsible to promote the UN system’s work in advancing gender equality and other SDGs, it is almost impossible within the current average annual increment of women staff at the United Nation to meet the UN Secretary-General’s goal of achieving Gender parity by 2030. In my line of work, we would say that’s a strong business case for us, women who are passionate about working at the UN, APPLY NOW! WUNABN is here to support you in this goal.

What’s missing from this picture, and what we are asking, are real and concrete opportunities. This year we’ve organized this event to show the UN that we are ready as “qualified women”  candidates to join them in their goal to achieve gender parity. We now invite the United Nations to meet us halfway to hold a job fair next year with the presence of hiring managers, where we can learn about the work of each organization to exchange and obtain real feedback about our candidatures and what they are looking for. Mr. Guterres can pick the place and the time and we’ll be there.

Thank you and happy Women’s Day!


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