Living with HIV and working in the UN system ~An interview with UN Plus member~

Yvonne Kasine

Human Resources Associate
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
Kigali, Rwanda

Can you briefly introduce yourself? 

I am Yvonne Kasine, a Human Resources Associate at UNICEF Rwanda and UN Plus Advisory Committee member since 2013. I joined UNICEF in 2008 and worked in Supply department for 6 years and now in Human Resources for 4 years. Before joining UNICEF, I worked with the Belgian Development Agency (ENABEL) for 8 years, in Logistics and as Administrative and Finance Manager. I am actively involved in staff well-being in UNICEF where I am a member of “Caring for Us,” UNICEF Peer Support Volunteer and UN Cares Focal point. I am a mother of four beautiful children and one grandson.

Have you faced any challenges as a person living with HIV while pursuing your career in your organization/UN system?

I am living with HIV since 2000 and HIV has never been a challenge while pursuing my career. However, when I was working with ENABEL, I was not feeling secure enough as the organization did not have any policy or programme supporting staff living with HIV. I heard about UN Plus before joining UNICEF and wished to have an opportunity to join UN. My dream came true in 2008 when I was offered a job with UNICEF tough it was a lower position compared to my previous position in ENABEL.

In order to build my career and my personal knowledge, I decided to go back to school and I completed my Bachelor Degree in Management and later my Masters in Business Administration/Supply & Procurement. My organization has provided me with many opportunities to build my capacity and that resulted in two promotions within 2 years. Some time I even forget that I live with HIV as I am treated equally like other staff and we are given some opportunities.  The most important in a career growth/development is a personal commitment being HIV positive or not.

If so, what challenges? And how have you overcome them?

Of course, in a work environment, we also have people who discriminate against staff living with HIV sometimes by ignorance. It happened that some colleagues revealed my HIV status to other people/partners without my consent but it did not harm me as I am openly living my HIV status.

Do you think your organization and the UN system provide an enabling work environment for people living with HIV?

Yes. UN System provides an enabling work environment for people living with HIV. I really appreciated that UN does not make HIV test mandatory for people joining the system. There are many policies protecting staff against stigma and discrimination and the existence of UN Plus and UN Cares contribute a lot in raising awareness among the UN Staff.

What more, if any, the UN system (or individual organizations) needs to do to make the UN work environment conducive for people living with HIV?

A lot has been done to make UN System a conducive work environment. However, there is a need to continue the advocacy for policy change especially for countries still not welcoming people living with HIV. The people working for UN in those countries are not safe as some of their rights might be violated.

You have abundance of experience in supporting staff living with HIV and mobilizing them to raise awareness on HIV in the workplace issues in your duty station. What advice would you give to colleagues in other duty stations who want to engage in support and advocacy activities for staff living with HIV in their respective offices?

The advice, I would give to those staff is to work closely with Senior management for them to support their activities in raising awareness. Partnering with staff committees and Human Resources and UN Clinic Doctors if they have them in the country.  The partnership with local networks of people living with HIV also help to strengthen and raise awareness among staff and their families. I would recommend them to organize awareness sessions where they will provide information to staff and those colleagues should make themselves available any time their support is needed.

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