Diverse workforces at UNHCR

Home    Insight    Insight

UNHCRs Robina knew she was destined to work helping refugees

UNHCR's Robina knew she was destined to work helping refugees

UNHCR has nearly 11,000 staff. Meet Robina Kolok, a supply officer from South Sudan on assignment to Bangladesh.

Robina Kolok from South Sudan works as an Associate Supply Officer and has been temporarily assigned to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, from her duty station in Kenya.

Robina knew she wanted to work with UNHCR from an early age as she herself was an urban refugee in Kenya. Having left South Sudan when she was very young Robina was a UNHCR beneficiary and the organisation sponsored her primary education.

"In addition to that, my mother later joined the World Food Programme in South Sudan," she says. "When I went to visit her at work, she would be involved in programmes like food distribution. Seeing people receive the food aid, and how they appreciated what they were receiving, made me want to do what she was doing. I saw the sense of satisfaction she got from her job. It motivated me to follow in her footsteps."

Emergency work is on the rise

In just three months, more than 600,000 Rohingya refugees have fled violence in Myanmar to seek safety in Bangladesh. Robina finds how fast this emergency is growing extremely shocking.

"While it is growing very fast, the resources are not keeping up. We are giving a lot, yet it feels like a drop in the ocean,"

"Logistically, it means more work for us at our warehouse, because we are bagging up various aid items like jerry cans, plastic sheets, blankets, mosquito nets, cooking pots and solar lanterns. But when it comes to distribution, it is easier. In the camps, refugees have to walk long distances to pick up aid items. So having the items already in kit form makes it easier for them to carry,"

Women are encouraged to join UNHCR

Robina believes her role as an Associate Supply Officer requires a strong woman with an authoritative voice.

"You are dealing with people, mainly men, from different backgrounds – from labourers to loaders, truck drivers, to managers. You need to have all these characteristics, which I think women have," she explains.

Rewarding work at UNHCR

Although the work may sometimes be challenging, there is no doubt it comes with its rewards. When Robina was quite new to UNHCR, she felt that sense of achievement that she was seeking from her career.

"I had just started my career in the United Nations when we were involved in the repatriation of refugees from Uganda to South Sudan. When I saw them return, they had that feeling of coming home. They had possessions that they brought back with them, and they were so happy to be back in their own land."

We were not doing much for them – we were distributing tools and seedlings – but what I saw in their faces was a hope for a new and better tomorrow. That was the best day of my life. Especially for myself, coming from the same community, it felt like things were changing for the better."

UNHCR encourages a diverse workplace

Women are encouraged to apply for roles with this humanitarian organisation because UNHCR actively recruits for a diverse workforce regardless of background, race, gender or orientation. 

You can join Robina and her colleagues via many exciting and important roles at UNHCR.

Find out more

Disclosure: Where Women Work researches and publishes insightful evidence about how its paid member organizations support women's equality.

Share this page:

Join our women's careers community