Fighting for disability rights
A Communications Officer from Mali, Awa Maiga’s passion for disability rights shines through in everything she does. Awa takes inspiration from Lobbo Traoré, First Lady of Mali and a tireless fighter for the cause of the most vulnerable in society. Awa, too, profoundly believes it is her duty to champion the needs of the destitute, the poorest and people with disabilities – and it is this fighting spirit which led her to become a volunteer with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) country office (co).
Her motivation to become a volunteer was also a result of a deep emotional connection to the mission of the UN. The efficiency, discretion, team spirit and professionalism that prevail at the UN appealed to Awa as important organizational qualities, but she views them equally as vital aspects of a mission close to her heart. In volunteering with the UN, Awa saw not only an opportunity to learn from its practices and values, which strongly resonate with her own, but a chance for true personal fulfilment. Her fierce determination aligns with a dedication to making a difference to others in the world, which can be realised in the supportive, inclusive environment that the UN has offered her.
Being a person with reduced mobility, adds another layer of significance to her journey as a volunteer. Despite the environmental and social difficulties which can come with a disability, Awa does not let her reduced mobility stop her, embracing every challenge with a smile on her face. She has really enjoyed her time as a volunteer in the UN system so far, and has already made wonderful memories. Every time she sets foot in the office, she is met by supportive colleagues, who have become her disability champions. These are people who have supported her integrate in the office, as well as her professional development, fostering an accepting, and open environment where people with disabilities can not only work well, but truly thrive. As a volunteer, this supportive workplace, the inclusivity and cultural and gender diversity have enabled Awa to integrate and develop personally and professionally within the UN system. Her most memorable experiences within the UN system so far have involved this exciting and inclusive work environment, and the respect for the gender policy and for people with reduced mobility in all the work that has been carried out so far.
Awa is responsible for acting as a liaison between UNDP and individuals with disabilities benefiting from its programmes. She also plays a key role in raising awareness among stakeholders (partners, NGOs, local authorities) about the inclusion of people with disabilities in the fight against COVID-19. Contributing to the training on advocacy for the empowerment of persons with disabilities, Awa helps to implement advocacy activities on promoting the socio-economic and political rights along with ensuring that development programmes consider the needs of persons with disabilities in design and implementation. With a diversity of activities Awa supports, her work as a Communications Officer varies. It is work where she can combine her skills and passion for the mission, to deliver tangible results. One of these outcomes includes the monitoring and support of beneficiaries in the Youth Entrepreneurship Project (PEJ). Her training as a manager had a profoundly positive impact on the effective management of the Funds Use Plans (FUT) received by the beneficiaries. Through her explanations and continuous support, they were empowered to not only multiply their incomes but also meet their daily needs. This was not just a professional achievement for Awa; it was an extremely fulfilling experience, knowing that her efforts contributed to improving their lives and helping them secure a more stable and fulfilling future.
Her advice to other people with disabilities who aspire to work in the UN system is: just do it! She says that the United Nations provides volunteers with an exciting and inclusive working environment where all diversity is welcomed and appreciated, and where everyone is encouraged to realise their potential.