Sunday, April 22, 2007

Dame Margaret Anstee

Last weekend, the NGO that I'm working for hosted their annual conference. I've been to enough stamp shows in my life to have a fairly good picture of the members before they arrived and wasn't disappointed. As usual, quite a few were a bit bonkers, they were almost uniformly old and a lot of the others turned out to be rather cool.

Anyway, the coolest thing was that I was put in charge of meeting and helping our keynote speaker, Dame Margaret Anstee, the first woman to be an Under-Secretary General at the UN. She was a representative of what is now UNDP throughout South America and in Morocco and Ethiopia and worked on the first (and perhaps most important) of the UN reform proposals in the late 1960s. She was also the first woman to lead a peacekeeping operation, in Angola. And, yes, I was in 'charge' of making sure she made it to events and helped her with her luggage. On an interesting note, all of her outfits, accessories and make-up were somehow UN blue. That's stylin'.

She spoke on being a woman at the UN, a lot of which are also in her book Never Learn to Type, but I got to ask her about being a woman doing development work in Africa. Her advice was to always take risks in your career, work with women, be yourself, and be discrete. I think that's all very sensible. Oooh, and I spent breakfast listening to her chat with old UN-types (quite a number of members seem to have worked for the organisation at one time or another) and gossiping. Did you know that lots of people didn't like Boutros Boutros-Gali? I certainly didn't. I have to admit that a lot of it was over my head, though. It was all really, really cool.

Yesterday was a great day, but I'll write about it later. It's time for me to get out of the house and walk up to Tower Bridge for the marathon! Woooo!