International Women's Day 2021:

Women leading the way towards gender equality within UNOV/UNODC

Cristina Albertin

UNODC Regional Representative, Regional Office for the Middle East & North Africa 

08th March 2021 

This International Women’s Day (IWD), UNOV/UNODC is celebrating the leadership shown by women across the organisations. Through a series of interviews, inspirational women from Field Offices and HQ are celebrated for their efforts towards advancing gender equality commitments and promoting these aspects across the offices’ mandated areas of work. In this interview we are speaking to Cristina Albertin, the Regional Representative to the Middle East and North Africa. Cristina Albertin is a strong believer in using her leadership position to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment and hopes to inspire her colleagues to follow suit. Read all about her motivations and achievements.

UNOV/ UNODC Gender Team: What was the “a-ha” moment when you realized there was a practical reason for promoting gender equality? How does that shine through in your leadership? 

Cristina Albertin: During my first UN assignment with the World Food Programme 30 years ago in Bolivia, I was responsible for a dairy production enhancement programme for small farmers. Traditionally women take care of the cows, milk them and process the milk. However, the training provided through the programme targeted exclusively men although they did not do the work. I saw a similar situation when I joined UNODC in Peru a few years later where we had large-scale alternative development programmes. Although women had an important role in coca harvesting, they were not considered for the training in production and marketing of mainstream alternative crops such as the export of coffee. They were relegated to small handicraft production of jam and juice for the local market. Since then, I try to ensure the equal access for men and women to opportunities and benefits created by UNODC.  

UNOV/UNODC Gender Team: How would you encourage other colleagues to lead the way and be actively involved in promoting gender equality? 

Cristina Albertin: I firmly believe that as a leader you need to be the role model and walk the talk. Gender equality and women’s empowerment resonates with many co-workers, but it is not always popular. Efforts towards achieving gender equality are not always taken seriously.  Even colleagues who are convinced and engaged do not always feel at ease to openly speak up and promote gender equality. It is not only the knowledge gap on gender mainstreaming, which we can address by training but it is too often still an uncomfortable subject to speak about. As a Regional Representative it is my role to speak up, open the discussion, follow through, ask questions and demand answers. This helps colleagues to feel assured and to persevere in their work when promoting gender equality. I also pay increasing attention to the commitment and responsibility of team leaders to promote gender equality, including the Heads of Programme Offices in the region. As a result, it is now part of their workplans and evaluations. 


Marked annually on March 8th, International Women's Day celebrates women's achievements and raises awareness about women's equality. UN Women announced this year`s theme as, “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” The theme celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also aligned with the priority theme of the 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, “Women's full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls” and the flagship Generation Equality campaign.

The hashtags for social media will be #IWD2021 and #InternationalWomensDay and #UNODC Gender.