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Meet UNFPA Egypt's new representative, Frederika Meijer 

It was with great excitement that Frederika Meijer started her position as the UNFPA representative in Egypt on 15 March 2021. She narrated to her team that Egypt allows her to work in areas of her passion, particularly women and girls’ issues for which she can use her experiences and expand her knowledge. Egypt is a country with a young population, a window of opportunity to create a demographic dividend. It has challenges related to population issues and many opportunities to expand on creative work with multiple stakeholders.

Her love for working with young people and adolescents started at a very early age. As an adolescent herself, Frederika worked as a peer educator in her village in the north of Holland at the age of 14, engaging adolescents in leisure activities and in the development of their village.

The passion for these subjects, her study sociology and her built up experience, paved eventually the way for her work at UNFPA in Ethiopia 25 years ago, followed by Mexico.

Since then, Frederika has extensively expanded her professional know-how covering reproductive health, gender, adolescent issues among other developmental matters not only within UNFPA, but outside as well.

After her UNFPA assignments in Ethiopia and Mexico, Frederika wanted to work with other organizations in different countries such as India, to familiarize herself more broadly on development work from different perspectives in different contexts. She worked with bilateral organizations as well as in civil society organizations, which brought her closer to target groups through fieldwork.

Frederika’s strong interest in UNFPA’s mandate and her desire to work on policy making eventually led her back as Country Representative in India, where she stayed for five years, followed by a position as Country Representative in Lao PDR. 

In 2018, Frederika moved to Egypt where she worked as the Deputy Regional Director in the Arab States Regional Office in Cairo. 

Her assignment as UNFPA Representative in Egypt comes at an opportune time, as Egypt prepares to launch and implement the National Action Plan on Egyptian Family Development.  Frederika hopes to support Egypt in achieving the objectives of this programme as well as of other national flagship initiatives such as Haya Karima. Both Programmes operate in districts most in need, and she would like to ensure that there is proper place for young people, particularly in their development and implementation. Applying a rights-based approach to family planning, and putting the needs of women and girls at the forefront while promoting family welfare are important goals for her.

“If you ensure the adolescent girl is empowered, that she stays in school and is not exposed to harmful practices, she will better build her life, her family and her community “, Frederika explains, “Only if she is protected, she gains the freedom to fulfill her full potential.”

Investing in girls, she adds, is the best investment, not only Egypt, but any country around the world can make.

She also highlights the importance of engaging men and boys in the development process; it is crucial involving them in the discussion around family planning since it is a joint responsibility and would ideally be a mutual decision.

“Overall, I hope to achieve more on the conversation within the household on family planning,” she says.

As the first woman to assume the position of representative in the Egypt country office, and working with an all-female management team, Frederika is both inspired and curious to see how female leadership will pan out internally and externally

“I aim to have a female style of management,” she says, “where I will work on empowerment and accountability jointly and equally.”

Being in Egypt has other advantages for Frederika, as it reignited her childhood hobby: horseback riding. To unwind and reflect in her free time, she loves nothing more than to enjoy horseback riding in Sakkara, in the ancient beauty of the country with her favorite horse Farida.