Meet Leila Osman - JOA's fourth United Nations Junior Professional Officer

15 March 2024
Leila Osman is JOA's fourth United Nations Junior Professional Officer. Next month she will be starting her new two-year post in Kyiv, Ukraine.

To have the chance to work with, and learn from, UNHCR in their efforts to provide a humanitarian response to aid displaced people in and around the war in Ukraine is an opportunity that a year ago I would never have imagined would come my way. As with most slightly unexpected turns in life, a number of unforeseen things happened simultaneously to lead me here. I saw the advertisement for the role early last summer, coinciding with the escalation of the war in Sudan, the home of my father and my Sudanese family, who, like so many others around the world, were forced to flee a conflict they had no part in. In my efforts to fundraise for the International Committee of the Red Cross to provide medical and emergency supplies to those fleeing the conflict, I saw the extent of efforts of aid organisations like UNHCR, among many others, to provide an emergency response to the situation, both in Sudan and elsewhere. At a point in my career where I was also looking for a new opportunity to move into the field of humanitarian action, I jumped at this incredibly exciting opening. A few interviews later, the pretty unexpected email of acceptance came. I called current JPO Rebecca Curtis, who is working for UNHCR’s protection team in Egypt. She told me more about what to expect and that it was indeed, an opportunity not to be missed. Hitting the ‘send’ button with my acceptance of the offer felt like a big moment, with a few butterflies in the stomach to accompany it!

Fast forward a few months later, having learned some lessons trying to navigate the UN hiring process, and a quick trip to Central America whilst waiting for my visa, I’m looking forward to getting started. My role will be based within the Kyiv office’s Reporting Team, where I will be compiling publications on what’s happening around Ukraine, where UNHCR funds are being spent, and telling the stories of those caught up in the conflict. It’s a role with a two year term, where I’ll have the chance to receive some great training and hopefully learn from people with bags of experience in the field. As in any ongoing emergency, I’m expecting that the learning curve will be steep, particularly given my background has mostly been in communications, but I’m hoping with a bit of hard work and support I’ll be able to contribute positively.

Work aside, I’m also very excited to get stuck into Kyiv life. I’ve been told it’s an incredible city with a lot to offer culturally. Despite a midnight-5am curfew, many shops, restaurants, bars and businesses continue to welcome crowds of customers. As a music and food lover, I’ll be munching my way around the thriving food scene and heading to concerts where I can.

Despite not having started yet, hearing from the other JPOs has assured me that the opportunity to embark on this kind of journey through the JPO programme is a great way to propel oneself into the field of humanitarian action. I’d encourage anyone wanting to apply, whatever career background you may come from, to do so!

Speak to you next from Kyiv!  Leila