Head of international programmes engagement, Unicef UK; sustainability professional and chartered environmentalist
Why did you become an environment/sustainability professional?
I believe we are a part of nature and not apart from it. My childhood memory of my father’s scrapbook on animals and nature from newspaper/article cuttings is my first recollection of being interested in the environment. As a student, I took part in debates etc on the environment. After graduating in botany (Honours), I did a master’s in environmental biology.
What was your first job in this field?
As senior environmental scientist at Development Alternatives, an NGO in India, I was responsible for coordinating a nationwide programme – CLEAN-India (Community Led Environment Action Network) – to assess the state of the environment, generating awareness, taking action and advocating through policy change for environmental improvement and sustainable development in 78 Indian cities.
How did you get your first role?
I interviewed for it after my master’s at Delhi University. The organisation needed someone who understood the breadth of environmental challenges from waste management to climate change, and could communicate to multiple stakeholders, including government, children and community members.
What does your current role involve?
I lead a team of specialists working on Unicef areas of work, including the environment, climate change, WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene), health, nutrition, education, emergencies and fundraising for partnership development, advocacy and communications. I am also part of a working group to reduce our organisation’s environmental footprint.
How has your role changed/progressed over the past few years?
I joined Unicef UK in 2015 to bring the environmental lens into its social work. Based on my achievements working with policy colleagues and developing private sector partnerships to give millions of children better environmental outcomes, I was seconded to Unicef Geneva and New York to help develop a strategy for engaging private sector partners globally on climate change and the environment, which is now a key priority for Unicef.
What’s the best part of your work?
The scale, reach and impact of Unicef globally and working with UK private sector partners to have a massive impact on Sustainable Development Goals.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
Mainstreaming environment and sustainability in all our work.
What was the last development event you attended?
Training in equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI).
What did you bring back to your job?
EDI is a vital part of any job and I wrote an article on ‘Why diversity is needed in the environmental profession’ for the Society for the Environment, to spread the word.
What are the most important skills for your job?
Communication, seeing the bigger picture, connecting the dots, breaking down silos and leading inclusive teams.
Where do you see the profession going?
Sustainability being mainstreamed into everyone’s role.
Where would you like to be in five years’ time?
Creating positive impact through thought leadership, influencing, developing partnerships and helping further the aims of sustainable development globally.
What advice would you give to someone entering the profession?
Learn about other areas of work and how sustainability intersects and brings value to everything.
How do you use the IEMA Skills Map?
When applying for my Chartered Environmentalist, I found it so useful in identifying my strengths and gaps.
What three words best describe you?
Strategic, solutionist, nature-lover.
What motivates you?
Learning from nature, spending time in nature and learning about/knowing how everything is interconnected.
What is your personal motto?
Dream big, action it. Dreams do come true!
What’s the greatest risk you have ever taken?
As a working mother, switching sectors and working on diverse topics and areas in different parts of the world.
If you could go back in history, who would you like to meet?
Leonardo da Vinci – I am inspired by him being inspired and learning from nature.
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