This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights. Marking 25 years since the development of the most progressive roadmap for the empowerment of women and girls - the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action - the day calls on all of us to reflect on what is left to do to reach a gender equal world.
In the Logistics Cluster community, we know that we are stronger together and made stronger because of the diversity of the strengths and perspectives of all of our partners. Logistics has traditionally been a male-dominated field but the inspiring female logisticians we interviewed below show that gender has nothing to do with grit, determination and a passion to get things done to help those in need. We asked them what attracted them to the field of humanitarian logistics, and what advice they would offer aspiring female loggies in the spirit of #generationequality.
Logistics Cluster Coordinator, Central African Republic
I was pursuing an academic career and went to Nigeria for a research project related to infrastructure and access. I realised there that I wouldn’t spend the rest of my life in the world of theories and assumptions. As a leader in humanitarian logistics, WFP was my first choice so I applied for an internship and was called pretty much immediately. Six months later, I returned to university to finalise my project and degree, and afterwards I was hired by WFP and the rest is history. 15 years later I am still part of the WFP family.
"Don’t be intimidated. If it interests you, go for it."
Head of Operations, Global Logistics Cluster Support Team, Italy
I joined the humanitarian world in 2005 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Since then I have followed key emergencies, deploying wherever needed. I arrived to the world of logistics by chance thanks to my writing and analytic skills. I deployed to Port-au-Prince, Tripoli, Damascus, Tacloban, Peshawar and Kathmandu to name a few places. These destinations made me the person that I am today.
My genuine passion to support the field, my drive to develop strategic relationships, my insatiable initiative in identifying improvements and opportunities, made me ready for new challenges.
"What I find most important is the ability to work under pressure, to prioritise tasks even when they all seem important. And to keep learning, every day."
Anaïs Boufferet, Head of Operational Logistics and Marie Houel, Head of Supply Department Solidarités International, Paris, France
What attracted Anais and Marie to the field of humanitarian logistics?
The panel of technical fields and tasks: no routine! The richness of the people you meet and the opportunity to make a difference!
"Being a woman will mostly have no impact on the job and when you are the only woman in the room, own it, you belong there!"
Procurement and Logistics Officer, IOM, South Sudan
My passion for humanitarian logistics started a while back, when I worked in refugee camps in Dadaab and Kakuma, Kenya. To date, I have gained practical skills on all technical professions like construction, electrical, fleet maintenance and warehousing. Personally, it’s a calling that keeps me on my toes and on top of things at all times, as I make a difference in the organisation and to the vulnerable populations that we serve.
I encourage women in South Sudan to embrace the call and confidently take up such roles in any contexts, “fragile” and “non- fragile”; because just like me, they can do it! As women, we should continue to support and inspire others as well as challenge ourselves to greatness and avoid limiting ourselves. Let us exercise our greatest potential at any opportunity presented to us as that is how we get to inspire more women.
"A woman who considers logistics for a career is already my hero!"
Logistics Officer, Syria Logistics Cluster, Turkey
Although I was in logistics before, the added value for me was to think of the scenes when the aid we are processing is delivered to the beneficiaries. I wanted my capabilities to be used for good purposes instead of being used merely to gain money. I saw that I was capable of solving operational problems in extreme conditions and I knew that the aid sector is one of the areas where this is needed. I wanted to share my knowledge and practices and abilities in that sector.
An ability to be multi-functional helps a lot in humanitarian logistics. We should never think that field work is only for men. Women are just as good at handling trucks and calculating their volume, managing the commodities in them, considering loading and off-loading conditions, arranging staff and organising labour, liaising with partners and coordinating amongst stakeholders, all at once.
"I would suggest the women to always feel their inner power and reflect it in their work."
Supply Chain Officer, WFP, Mozambique
As a woman, I strongly believe that gender equality and diversity is a fundamental right. Never lose determination and hope, gather courage to believe that you can succeed.
"Nothing is impossible, face challenges and do your best to overcome them."
Global Logistics Cluster Coordinator, Italy
I was attracted to the world of humanitarian logistics partly because logistics is such a practical and tangible way to support humanitarian operations. You can see, touch and hear your input to the overall humanitarian effort when you load a truck, receive cargo on the tarmac or set up a warehouse. Working in humanitarian logistics is a privileged opportunity to feel directly connected to the support the beneficiaries receive.
Personally, the most important issue for me is that we should not have preconceptions about the kind of person that can do a certain task. We should be very open-minded, there is no one-size-fits-all. It’s about our diversity as human beings – regardless of gender, we all have many skills and competencies that can be brought to the varied challenges of humanitarian logistics. Other than that? Seize any opportunity to go to the field. Oh, and always make sure that your bag or pockets have room for your travel documents, a battery pack for your phone, water and a bag of nuts - you never know when and where humanitarian logistics will take you!
"Ours is the generation when logisticians will be recognised for their skills rather than their gender."