Interview with Katrin Hermsen (National Women Commission, Nepal)

What is your professional background?

I have a Master’s degree in comparative social studies, a German ‘Diplom’ (equivalent to a Master’s degree) in social work and am a fully trained and state-approved social care worker.

What is your job as a development worker?

I advise Nepal’s National Women Commission on results-based planning and monitoring, as well as communication, knowledge management and team building.

Why did you decide to become a GIZ development worker?

I think that development worker assignments are really interesting because they combine specialist knowledge and practical experience with intercultural challenges. And of course there’s the chance to work with a partner organisation every day, to ensure an exchange of views among specialists and to deliver advisory services, which I find attractive from both a professional and a personal point of view. I’ve always been interested in international cooperation and human rights as well.

Tell us about a typical working day.

It’s not that easy to describe a typical working day. When I arrive at the National Women Commission in the morning, the first thing I do is to talk to my colleagues. A morning discussion always marks the start of our working day, and offers an informal forum for sharing information. Then it’s time to start providing advisory services, and this can take a wide variety of forms. With more than 40 staff, there are lots of very different issues to tackle, and individual employees often come and consult me. I also use the contact with individual employees to provide targeted advice. So my working day generally consists of meetings with individual colleagues and with the entire workforce, holding workshops or providing advice on preparing monitoring documents. I often accompany the Women Commission on monitoring visits to different districts of Nepal. And I’m frequently asked to support the Commission at meetings with members of the government or non-governmental organisations, and to advise them accordingly. Business trips and meetings sometimes crop up at very short notice. I also believe it’s important to maintain contact with GIZ’s country office in Kathmandu. That means I also have things to do for GIZ Nepal, such as giving an introduction on gender to new development workers. Obviously I also work at the computer, develop ideas, comment on documents, and write and answer emails. It’s anything but boring!

How do you find working for GIZ’s Development Service?

As a development worker I have the chance to use my technical expertise and intercultural skills on a massive scale. I face challenges and pose challenges so that I can give the partner organisation the best possible advisory services. In my work I’m in constant touch with people and I see time and time again how important it is to find a common basis for communication. There are a huge number of linguistic, cultural and technical challenges. To put it in a nutshell – I love my work!

What has been your most important experience as a development worker?

Communication skills are the key to good advisory services. This means both the ability to speak the local language and the ability to retain a balance between culturally appropriate communication and challenging communication with a view to triggering change. Technical expertise can then be built on the foundations of communication.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work for GIZ’s Development Service as a development worker?

If you’re going to enjoy your work and encourage change, it really helps if – in addition to having the requisite technical expertise – you’re highly motivated, speak the language, and are interested in the local culture. You’ll also have to cope with frustration sooner or later. My advice then would be to take a realistic look at yourself first, and see if this is right for you.