By Anonymous • February 02, 2007•Internships and Clerkships
By a Second-Year Law Student
This summer I am working as an intern at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the Hague, the Netherlands. Although I am just working in one of the isolated ad hoc Tribunals, my understanding is that UN policy is universally applicable. Therefore, I imagine that my experience here could be representative of other UN branches. However, this information is the kind to be taken with a grain of salt, since I myself have not actually had the experience of navigating the bureaucracy while having a family. After all, it isn’t really until you begin to work within a system that you begin to learn about all the little hidden inadequacies or contradictions. However, it’s always a good start when you don’t cringe at the policy itself, or hear horror stories from the staff. I’m just an intern here at the ICTY, but I have also had the opportunity to talk to staff members with real experience.
I have heard that the UN is a great place to work for career women who also would like to have a family. During the first few days that I was here, I was actually truly struck by the amount of expecting mothers that I encountered throughout the administrative echelons. There is maternity leave, paternity leave, adoption leave and family leave. From what I hear, maternity leave is apparently not the fast track to being the marginalized part-timer. I was even told a story about a woman who was promoted while she was away on maternity leave. But you can take the numbers and decide what you think for yourselves – 16 weeks total maternity leave, and 4 weeks total paternity leave. The paternity leave is kind of a recent thing, but I see it as a response to the needs and demands of the personnel – always a good sign.
One other family-related issue that has struck me is that it seems like people work reasonable hours. Having been in to work on the weekends and in the evenings, I can attest to the fact that the building is not swarming with staff members. I am sitting in the office even as I write this, and myself and another intern seem to be the only living creatures in the building. I have seen the occasional person who comes in for a few hours, but quite a few times I have been the last person to leave the building.
Ms. JD would be greatly interested to hear about any experiences that you may have had as an intern or employee at the UN that might lend contrary or confirming perspective to this observation.