Stephania, the UN Mom

Portrait: Stephania Constantinou

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Stephania is Colombian – Cyprot. A polyglot, a Mom, a former UN colleague and forever friend.

By her name alone you can already sense how multicultural she is.

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Grace Danico’s illustration of NYC

 

I met her two years ago while I was doing my internship at the Cyprus Mission to the United Nations in New York, thus she is one of my very first friends in the Big Apple.

 

 

 

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Never again – Stephania during the Women’s march in New York, January 2017

Team Player

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One late afternoon at the UN Delegates Lounge also known as DL (does not stand for down low) where Diplomats gather every evening and especially Friday night to network. If you want to read a not so accurate but romanticized version of what goes down read this article

In the corridors of the office situated by Bryant Park, I bumped into my new colleague.  Along with Ourania my other colleague from the Cyprus Mission, Stephania was exactly practicing what Women Empowerment is about, team work and forever supportive. Her calm force is probably what the World needs.


The Government Official

Stephania is humble so I will say it for her under these lines. She is the example of perseverance, one of the rare hired diplomats as a full time Adviser, and I secretly hope she will pass the exam to become a carrier diplomat one day.

I believe her mentor Maria (may she Rest In Peace) played a role in supporting a young Stephania that had worked along her side for more than a year. But it is most and for all her extraordinary skills, to relate with others and to speak as a former translator 5 languages:  Italian, French, Spanish, English and Greek (probably another one I am missing) to perfection, and her true passion for the United Nations project. You could assume working at the United Nations is unattainable, except for the elites, her story proves this wrong.


The UN : day to day work

Her story is also what makes the UN, or any system, its people.  I had a disagreement one day with Pascal Lamy former World Trade Organization Director, as he compared multilateral diplomacy to a « washing machine » whereby decisions are diluted to get to a consensus. The direct decision making from Head of State to Head of State  with a phone call would be the solution.

But wouldn’t it be unsustainable for a leader to handle all foreign affair matters on top its other portfolios and overall national policy?

The UN was not created to take mankind to heaven, but to save humanity from hell. — Dag Hammarskjöld, Secretary-General from 1953 to 1961

 


The UN Mom

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Stephania became a Mom in September 2017, just in time for me to visit her and the UN Baby Leonor. As an ambitious young woman, I was always skeptical as well as deep down scared of the motherhood experience, but seing her blossom even more, is showing me that you can have it all. 

She now holds an extra reason to work towards a better World.


A conversation with Stephania

1. Most people conceive the UN as this huge institution, but really how is to work at the UN as a Delegate?

The world tends to see the UN as redundant, or rather inefficient in many ways. After working at the UN for three years now I can, without a doubt, say that the UN is a much needed platform for debate, preventive diplomacy, and the promotion of ideals that render the world a little bit more humane and decent every day. It’s not easy, and certainly not quick in delivering, but it’s always work in progress.

Working at the UN as an Advisor (locally hired) is ever-challenging and fulfilling. Each day I wore by UN badge I felt empowered, ready to make a difference. It’s an honor representing your country in an environment which is fairly regarded as the epitome of multilateralism. The UN and its organs gives you a clear insight of how all of its 193 Member debate and try to achieve consensus on world matters.

I always tell my family and friends, who tend to be quite critical of the UN, that if a family-of say 5 people- who share a common language, history, culture, and genealogical background argue about simple things (dinner, house chores, anything), imagine how it is having delegates that share very distinct languages, culture, economies and realities, agree and find consensus on urgent and serious global issues. It’s a struggle.

2. What advise would you give to a young person envisaging a carrier in diplomacy?

My advice to an aspiring diplomat, after being exposed to this profession, is to read, read a lot of news, keep yourself up-to-date with world affairs and learn an extra language, or two, or three.

Be open to ideas and listen to your interlocutor.

Understand where they come from. Also, read history; it helps you understand the present better and shape an even better future.

3. Do you see the world differently since you became a mom?

Oh yes. As new mother I tend to be more empathetic, understanding. And yes, more nervous and sensitive.

I want to fix the world, and make it void of any threats that could harm my child.

And I wish I had the power to do so at once! I’ve come to understand what it means to be a “protective tigress mother”.

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UN Mom and Baby at the Security Council, New York

Finally, Stephania’s reaction to her portrait

Your words put a smile on my face, as in…for real? It touches me that you say those things cause now I think,

maybe my daughter will grow up to one day read this article and feel that I, as her mum, and women around the world worked into making our societies better. One way or another.

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