Reflection from Fieldwork in Amman, Jordan, from AC4 Fellow, Megan Germain

View of the dusty city from the Citadel. Amman is known for its cream colored buildings that stretch for miles in all directions.

Upon Arrival in Amman – June 9th, 2017

Marhaba from Amman! This summer I am interning in the Adolescent and Youth Programming (ADAP) and HIV/AIDS department of the UNICEF MENA Regional Office. In addition to learning all the acronyms the UN uses, I will be working on 3 separate projects.

The first is a Participatory Action Research Program (PAR) with youth from marginalized communities in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria [a mix of displaced people and locals]. Addressing the lack of youth inclusion and opportunities available to adolescents in the region, PAR trains young researchers to go back to their communities and gather information on the aspirations of youth and the issues preventing them from achieving these dreams or affecting them in general. My main deliverable is to produce multiple guides and tools for the NGO partners and young researchers to use and to assist the young researchers in developing their community action plans to engage their communities in change-making.

My second project is assisting UNICEF MENARO in designing and providing information and e-mentoring services for youth in the region. The gap in time between graduating from school [university or upper-secondary] and finding a job is around 5 years. In order to assist youth in staying motivated and maintaining their skills, UNICEF MENARO hopes to direct them towards mentors and individuals who can help. In addition to employment related issues, the e-mentoring report and future programming will be used to support young women and girls, and youth in accessing quality education opportunities.

My third and final focus is on updating and digitizing Youth Fact Sheets and indicators on the current adolescent situation by country and in the region. In coordination with UN IATTTY, an inter-agency task force of UN organizations and NGOs, we will be developing an interactive platform for youth data in the Middle East and North Africa to assist researchers and practitioners in making informed decisions.

Beyond experiencing a completely new part of the world, I am excited to learn from some amazingly talented people here at UNICEF. Though I will be in an office more than the field, I am going to learn the back-end of fieldwork and coordination to implement into future programs I may work on.

First week at UNICEF MENA Regional Office.

Half Way – July 15th, 2017

I came to Amman with few expectations (probably due to a lack of brain space at the end of the semester). Prior to my arrival, I had time to overwhelm my predecessor with questions and gain a clear idea of the work environment and what was going to be asked of me. Working in the Regional Office does not leave much room for fieldwork since we play a technical support role. Yet, it has surprised me how open they are to us expressing our interest in projects and informing us on everything the office is working on. Though I may not be at the refugee camps or community centers, whom we support, I don’t feel like the work I am doing is any less relevant (and, I must admit, the AC is a big relief).

One thing I did attempt to prepare myself for was the gender inequality. Though, I don’t think that any amount of preparation state-side could have minimized my shock. The inequality seeps its way into everyday and every little interaction, and to be honest, eats away at you. (I’d like to make a side note that my struggles with gender were purely outside of my placement. The UNICEF office became a small haven, somewhere where men looked me in the eye as they spoke to me and I could speak freely. The streets, shops, and restaurants of Amman are where the majority of my negative experiences occurred.) I find myself questioning my role, going back and forth between safety, respect, and independence. Developing a thick skin is how many people have suggested dealing with it, but I’m not so sure I want to become complacent to it. As a foreigner, someone who is here for a limited amount of time, and a Caucasian girl from California, where is my role in contributing to a more peaceful Middle East? And, how does being a woman affect that?

While struggling with such questions about peace, cooperation and gender equality, I am also being pleasantly surprised by the food. I thought I would be in hummus heaven, but turns out the desserts are truly the best part about Middle Eastern food!

Author: Megan Germain is a 2017 Fellow, pursuing a Masters in Development Practice degree in the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia. This summer she travelled to Amman, Jordan to work in the UNICEF MENA Regional Office to support on youth peacebuilding initiatives particularly on training support for marginalized youth.

Photos: Taken and provided by author.

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