Voices: Seeing the fruits of UNOPS labour
“When I visited a project helping communities to increase the value of their olive, almond and fig production in Morocco, an old woman told me the olive oil she was producing had less than 0.8 percent acidity. ‘It means my oil is extra virgin olive oil, the best type you can find,’ she said. Seeing the light in her eyes and hearing this woman, who was illiterate, talk about how proud she was made me feel so motivated.” -
Communications Assistant, Tunisia
"After 13 years of working at a few United Nations headquarters in Geneva, I decided to relocate to Tunisia. I am a Swiss and Tunisian national, so it made sense for me to reconnect with my roots, while working in an environment where I could feel more connected to the projects and those who benefit from them. I have been working for UNOPS in Tunisia for nearly two years now. I find it so exciting to work in a field office, where I can see the importance of what we do and how our initiatives change the lives of local people.
One of the projects that made a huge impression on me was the Fruit Tree Programme in Morocco, implemented by UNOPS with funding from the Millennium Challenge Corporation and in collaboration with the Government of Morocco. The project supported local people's production of higher-quality fruit, created new opportunities for rural youth, helped protect the environment and strengthened women's participation.
Through the project, about 1,800 women participated in fruit cultivation and marketing training, and 29 women's cooperatives were created – a huge feat considering the conservative area in which we were working. Many of the people were illiterate and living in basic conditions.The women and men did not mix because of cultural traditions, and agricultural work was mostly performed by men. To get around these challenges, our project managers had to convince influential people in the communities to allow women to participate.
Another thing that inspires me is the fact that UNOPS always considers sustainability from the very inception of a project through to its closure. The olives, almonds and figs project included the whole family, meaning it was not only the fathers who were taught better agricultural techniques, but also their wives, daughters and sons. This means that when the children grow up, they can continue their family's good work.
In addition to Morocco, our office supports projects in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Algeria, and as Communications Assistant, it is my job to raise awareness of our activities and projects. In the wake of the Arab Spring, the region's transition brings many new challenges and opportunities. Since the revolution, and the time when I used to live in Tunisia, I have noticed a real change in people's ability to express themselves, and talk about problems in the media and other public forums.
Some of my friends were surprised that I moved back to Tunisia, but I'm really happy to be here with my two daughters and family, to be able to appreciate simple things like drinking fresh orange juice on a terrace and enjoying the sunshine. While I delight in the relaxed and pleasant way of life, having been in Europe for so many years means that I occasionally get frustrated with some of the cultural differences. But I have promised myself not to criticize, because I have not come here to change anyone's mentality. I am adapting slowly and reconnecting with my roots."