UNOPS is actively involved in the United Nations System-Wide Action Plan for gender quality and women's empowerment (UN SWAP), which assigns common performance standards for the gender-related work of all UN entities.
Since 2013, UNOPS has accelerated its efforts to promote gender equality, creating a network of 30 gender focal points spread across 25 country offices and nine partnership offices. The role of these focal points is to facilitate the organization of gender activities at both the project and office levels, and raise awareness among UNOPS personnel.
Majd Al Aqad is a Project Engineer on the Jenin Correctional Facility Project in Palestine. She is a mother of four and a civil engineer, and she has been working in the field of engineering for almost 10 years. "UNOPS is an organization that respects women and promotes a healthy work-life balance. Thanks to UNOPS policies on gender equality, I don't have to fight to prove I have the capabilities and ability to compete with men in my field of work," Majd said. "I don't have to choose between a fulfilling career and being a mother; I can do both." She added: "I participate actively at work and can still get home in time to care for my four children."
Majd's experience of working for UNOPS is very positive: "I was given an opportunity to prove myself on the construction site, which is still often considered as a workplace only suitable for men, where women's roles are limited."
UNOPS sensitivity to gender aspects of infrastructure projects allows the organization to go beyond just constructing buildings and towards building communities. Successful infrastructure projects start by understanding how the built environment will be used, and its likely impact on communities. With this in mind, gender considerations should be considered early on in any project process, in order to increase sustainability. UNOPS can identify areas where project activities may positively or adversely impact the quality of life for women and girls. Well-planned infrastructure can expand their available opportunities by, for example: providing access to markets; improving livelihoods; increasing training options; providing access to basic services, including health facilities and education.
In Palestine, gender considerations were taken into consideration in the design and implementation of Jenin Correctional Facility, in order to provide the female inmates with private and suitable living conditions adapted to their needs. The project plans were reviewed and approved by UN Woman and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
"UNOPS are concerned with many issues that affect personnel, notably health and safety, and environment considerations," Majd said. UNOPS is ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001certified. ISO 14001 is the world's most recognized environmental management standard, and OHSAS 18001 is the world's most respected standard for occupational health and safety, recognizing UNOPS commitment to safe working practices on construction sites.