Meet the Member: Rita Dhakal Jayasawal

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Currently based with the UN in Baghdad, Iraq, RedR member Rita Dhakal works to guarantee coordination between the different actors in humanitarian assistance. This work is especially important in a context so deeply affected by protracted conflict.

Since 2016, Rita has been working as a Humanitarian Affair Officer for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI). Her role is crucial for the overall planning and coordination of the humanitarian and development interventions in Iraq, as she liaises between the UN mission, UN Country Team (UNCT), the national government and the many other stakeholders in the field. In the past 11 years, she has worked with INGOs on short and long-term assignments in 9 different countries: Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan, USA, Switzerland and Iraq.

Rita at work during a post earthquake response monitoring visit of a ECHO funded Consortium Project
Rita at work during a post earthquake response monitoring visit of a ECHO funded Consortium Project

Early career

Rita initially worked in her home country of Nepal. “I first started my humanitarian response career as a Project Manager, Disaster Management at CARE Nepal in 2006”. Rita started building a wide expertise in Disaster Risk Management in this role and her work brought about change in the way this issue was approached: “I was the first DRR Manager at CARE Nepal. Before that, approaches to Disaster Risk Reduction used to be reactive rather than proactive; the priority was only response”.

Following her experience at CARE, Rita moved to work with the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Nepal before moving to a role at OCHA headquarters, where she has worked in the UN’s Central Emergency Respond Funds (CERF) in New York, and the Environmental Emergency Section of Emergency Service Branch of OCHA in Geneva. Rita also led the Task Group for Disaster Management during 2015-2016 under the umbrella of the Association of International NGOs in Nepal.

Throughout her career, she has represented INGOs in national and international forums and contributed to national level task groups, including cash coordination groups. Rita also spoke in the STAIT Webinar series on cash transfer: “Are Cash Transfers Transforming Humanitarian Assistance?”  Her experience in DRR led her to become an elective executive member of the only national Disaster Preparedness Network (DPNET Nepal).

Coordination and capacity building

Coordination can be quite hard to achieve, especially in a context such as Iraq, deeply affected by the protracted conflict and with many international actors involved on the ground: “My role is to ensure that there is coordination among the UNCT members, INGOs, other development and humanitarian actors and the government of Iraq, by supporting and pulling them to share information among each other”. Capacity building represents another crucial part of Rita’s commitment in the field, since she acts as a training and learning focal point: “I make sure that staff in the field are up-to-date in terms of knowledge and skills and, therefore, able to provide immediate humanitarian assistance to those in need and affected by the ongoing war”.

‘During an emergency response greater coordination can be achieved by professionals that knows each other through RedR’

Rita Dhakal Jayasawal

RedR Member

The RedR Network

Rita’s first experience with RedR has been as a trainee “In the late 2000s, I participated in one of the RedR humanitarian response training in Nepal, and what prompted me to apply for membership is the fact that I was quite impressed by the high level of professionalism of RedR trainers and ability to pass a wide range of skills on to the participants”.

Becoming a RedR Member not only enabled Rita to be constantly updated with RedR’s training courses and activity, but also gave her the opportunity to strengthen her professional network. “After Nepal Earthquake in 2015, I acted as the Coordinator of the INGOs Disaster Management Group. In the aftermath of the earthquake, a RedR team came to Nepal and we met to discuss some aspects of the assessment they were carrying out. I provided RedR staff with all the necessary information to facilitate their assessment”.

This close collaboration also reinforced Rita’s interests in RedR work, especially its capacity building focus: “I truly believe that having the right skills and capacity are crucial to provide immediate and effective humanitarian assistance and, by doing so, to preserve the dignity of the affected population”.

A more recent example of the dynamic connection between Rita and RedR is the recent participation of UN staff based in Iraq in RedR the training held in Erbil: “I would like to engage more in connecting UN agencies training focal points to RedR, so as to make the most out of these training opportunities offered on a global level”.

For all these reasons, “RedR membership constitutes an important framework for my profession and humanitarian commitment, as I constantly benefit from their capacity building expertise. At the same time, being part of RedR network means that in the context of a real emergency, such was the case of the Nepal Earthquake, greater coordination can be achieved by professionals working on the emergency response in whatever capacity”.

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Please note that the views reflected in this article are the views of the individual.


‘I was impressed by the ability of RedR trainers to pass a wide range of skills on to the participants’

Rita Dakhal Jayasawal

RedR Member

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Humanitarians with five years of professional experience are eligible to become RedR Members, while aspiring aid workers can join our Affiliate Scheme.