International Women's Day 2021:

Women leading the way towards gender equality within UNOV/UNODC


Gelareh Mostashari

National Programme Officer, Expert Drug Demand Reduction

Quote of Gelareh Mostashari "In achieving gender equality,
         you cannot expect a smooth path with immediate desirable results, you need to make the first steps should you want to get
         to your objective sooner or later.  And why delay the first steps longer? "


Vienna, 8 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 Gelareh Mostashari, National Programme Officer and Senior Expert in Drug Demand Reduction in Country Office Iran (COIRA). Gelareh Mostashari is a Gender Strategy Focal Point and actively encourages her colleagues to mainstream gender and to overcome potential cultural barriers. Read all about her motivations, her achievements and how she will be commemorating IWD 2021.

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

Gelareh Mostashari: A personal aha-moment for me was in 2010 when the UNOV/UNODC gender disaggregated professional staff statistics were shared. This overview demonstrated that not only the representation of women at UNOV/UNODC was lower compared to men but also that women were not being promoted to senior levels. This disparity was relatively larger compared to some of the other UN agencies. For me this was a revelation and made me realise that “Houston we have a problem” here.  

While I cannot pinpoint the specific “a-ha” moment in promoting gender in programme management, it was a process starting many years back.  One important experience was participating in a gender mainstreaming training workshop in Iran facilitated by an international consultant and convened by UNDP for the members of the UN Iran Gender Working Group in 2007.  During the workshop we were provided with many examples of how gender-responsiveness could improve the quality of the programmes and provide lasting solutions to development issues.  As a result, we have adopted this approach in our work over the years. We have achieved this through conducting specific assessments and applying a gender-lens throughout the planning and implementation of a project.


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

Gelareh Mostashari: I would draw attention to the fact that this is a managerial imperative. There are various definitions for ‘management’, the definition I usually find very practical for management is “the deployment and direction of all available resources including human resources, financial resources, technological resources, and natural resources for best possible achievement of envisaged results”. Ignoring half of the available human resources on earth would be too much of a waste that nobody should approve. The other point I usually make in favour of gender equality and empowerment of women is that I remind them that women have been systematically kept back from decision-making and that gender-blindness has kept us from making the best use of our resources.  

In many areas of work when instigating change, you cannot expect a smooth path with immediate desirable results. You need to make the first steps if you want to get to your objectives.  And why delay the first steps longer?   


UNOV/UNODC Gender Team: How do you commemorate International Women´s Day, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Gelareh Mostashari: Of course, we would neeed to act in the virtual sphere as International Women's Day is not officially recognised in Iran, conducting public activities of wider reach does face limitations.

Maim Image for the IWD campaign of UN Women, figures of
         women holding a flag that says "Women in Leadership"

(c) UN Women

Read more interviews here and find out more about the other inspirational women

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.