Encouraging young Emiratis to get involved with the UN

Weyakum, an Emirati not-for-profit social enterprise is hoping to get more Emiratis involved in the UN’s Young Professionals Programme.

Ameera Amir, who founded the social enterprise Weyakum, wants to enthuse young Emiratis about the UN. Delores Johnson / The National
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ABU DHABI // Emiratis are vastly under-represented among United Nations’ staff because they believe pay is too low and educational requirements too high.

Weyakum is aiming to change that. The UAE social enterprise hopes to spur more Emiratis into joining the UN’s Young Professionals Programme, a recruiting initiative aimed at graduates under 32 years old.

More than 40,000 candidates apply each year to start a career with the UN through the programme, but few are Emirati.

“The UAE has always been selected as a participating country because we are severely under quota,” said Ameera Amir, the founder of Weyakum, or With You.

“I attended talks and heard discussions about how Emiratis would never be interested for a number of reasons, which included misconceptions about the UN’s pay scale as well as the educational requirements at the UN.”

The programme consists of an entrance examination and professional development, and each year countries underrepresented in the UN are invited to take part.

“The fact that the programme provides all candidates with a fair opportunity was intriguing, as I believe there are so many Emiratis who could participate as qualified individuals without being given preferential treatment,” Ms Amir said.

“I believed that all these misconceptions could be easily eliminated through awareness sessions and that is precisely what I sought to do in summer 2014.”

Ms Amir conducted a nationwide awareness programme to give all Emiratis a fair chance to participate. The group helped with writing resumes and cover letters to make sure their applications fit with requirements.

“Regardless of whether they get accepted or not, this was a big step for us all,” she said.

“The candidates were happy about the training they received with regards to how one should approach these sort of applications, write strong cover letters and tailor resumes to fit the job requirement, as they have used their acquired skill set to apply for other jobs.”

Heba Al Hashmi, 26, has applied to the UN programme through Weyakum.

“I did my bachelor’s in international studies and I’ve always wanted to make a difference in the world and work for the UN but I wasn’t sure how to do that,” Ms Al Hashmi said.

“Through Weyakum and Ameera I learnt the ropes and I hope to be selected for the coming year. Hopefully, more Emiratis will apply too.”

John Ericson, of the UN’s office of human resources management, was full of praise for Ms Amir’s work.

“The UN is seeking to increase the number of Emiratis working for the organisation,” Mr Ericson said. “One way to join the UN is to take the Young Professionals Programme recruitment examination.

“In this regard, we highly appreciate the efforts made by Weyakum, under the leadership of Ms Ameera Amir, to attract, inform and encourage qualified young Emiratis to participate in the YPP.

“Her efforts have been instrumental in increasing the number of persons from the UAE who applied for the examination in 2014 and we are grateful for her continued efforts to encourage more Emiratis to participate in 2015.”

Weyakum’s mission is to empower and equip Emiratis with the right skills needed to succeed in their professional lives, in line with the Government’s Vision 2021 to invest in providing a more diversified and competitive Emirati workforce.