Our Perspectives

Inside UNDP: Iman Al Husseini


Iman Husseini with AdministratorIman Husseini briefing the Administrator, during her visit in February 2014, on infrastructure projects in Gaza. Photo: UNDP/PAPP

1. Who are you?
I was raised with my two brothers in Kuwait. My father used to tell me when I was young: ”Since you are in the middle of your brothers you are the best, as the best bead in the necklace is always in the middle.” My family was a great support and driving force for me in my career. It is part of my nature to always challenge myself.

2. What do you do for work?
I am a Programme Specialist at the UNDP Gaza Office, heading the infrastructure team that implements a variety of projects in sectors such as housing, water, sewage, job creation, energy, health, and education.

3. Where were you before?
I started my career as an assistant site engineer at a large consultancy office in Kuwait.  As a woman, I was not used to climbing walls or trees or walking on wood beams in construction sites.  Being one of five pioneer female engineers working for the company, the resident engineer was counting on my failure to leave the site.  I took up the challenge, killed my fears, and trained myself with the site supervisor’s help.

Upon my return to Gaza, I joined UNRWA in the shelter section, where I helped poor people get decent shelter on a small piece of land.  I had to be innovative in order to create spaces for the family’s use at reasonable costs.

I joined UNDP in August 1995 as a project engineer for a road works project, funded by USAID.   

4. What types of assignments do you do most frequently?

  • Lead no less than 15 engineers to deliver USD 13-20 million worth of projects annually in Gaza.
  • Produce proposals for funding after identifying gaps and needs.
  • Backstopping for technical issues on project related activities.

5. What are some result you’ve seen in your work?
Being a crisis area, Gaza, with its 1.8 million population, has endured a big loss of its human capital and physical infrastructure. The UNDP infrastructure unit has contributed to the delivery of many activities providing solutions for Gaza people, such as markets, municipal buildings, water, wastewater and road networks, and construction of entire neighbourhoods. Over 515 housing units were constructed for people who lost their homes during the recent hostilities.

6. What are your favorite things about working for UNDP?
I like working for UNDP because it is the best platform for solving challenges in the Gaza Strip. The Gaza context is characterized by swift changes that create more challenges. There is high demand for help and UNDP contributes a lot with early recovery initiatives in various sectors to alleviate the suffering of the Gaza population.

For me, UNDP is my second family, where I am taken care of by colleagues and management. I get support from UNDP in bad times and in turn, I owe it my full dedication to achieve goals.

At the professional level, UNDP provides support to all staff, especially during times of war, securing money, food, care and shelter if needed. UNDP pushes you to gain more learning and knowledge to develop and advance in your career.

7. What are the challenges of working and living in your duty station?
It is quite challenging being a woman in a male-led practice area. I always have had to prove myself to win trust, which is a burden for me, especially when you build a career over the years and at points have to start all over again.

Being a UNDP staff member gives me the respect of partners and counterparts, and my length of service here builds my reputation. However, with frequent changes in the management whom I report to directly, the challenge is always how to win their trust and appreciation while delivering in a demanding environment.

Lately, the work is highly demanding because of the crisis and political situation. Continuously having tight deadlines puts staff on edge and kills the spirit of innovation and clear thinking.

8. What is your favorite thing about your duty station?
There is high commitment to our work. When facing a dead end, you find people giving you a hand to attain goals or deadlines. From security guards to our Jerusalem colleagues, there is real team spirit working together to meet challenges.

9. Things on your work wish list which would empower you to deliver more effective results for work?

  • Push for a free market to get materials in and out of Gaza, which will end the dependence on access coordination mechanisms for supply of materials to projects
  • Realizing Gaza infrastructure as a unit that needs office-based staff to do core activities separate from projects
  • Sustainability of leadership in Gaza in order to achieve results and progress
  • Avoid tight deadlines

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