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IFA Virtual Town Hall Chat Summary 27 August 2020

The following chat summary is from the IFA Virtual Town Hall on 27 August 2020 with Ms. Sameena Gul.


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Speaker Biography

Ms. Sameena Gul started working with HelpAge International as Regional Head of Programmes for the Eurasia and Middle East Region in May 2019.  She manages a portfolio that includes countries in the Middle East (Yemen, Syria, OPT[Occupied Palestinian Territory], Lebanon and Jordan) and in East Europe and Central Asia (Ukraine, Moldova and Kyrgyzstan).  Sameena’s key role is to work with the country programmes to set their strategic direction, provide support in fundraising and ensure that HelpAge develops quality programmes that promote inclusive policies, advocate for the rights of older people, and provide platforms where older people can voice their concerns and speak for themselves.  The Middle East and Ukraine being emergency settings, Sameena’s role also requires responding to on-going and new emergencies, most recently COVID-19 and the explosion in Lebanon.  Sameena believes that being on the ground and working with local partners and staff to make a difference in someone’s life is a humbling experience.

Before joining HelpAge, Sameena worked in Yemen and Iraq with Norwegian Refugee Council and War Child UK, respectively.  Sameena also worked for a number of years in South and South East Asia and  East and North Africa with international NGOs, leading the country programmes and responding to emergencies in various sectors with a focus on protection of rights and inclusion.  Sameena holds an M.Sc. in Human Resource Development and a M.A in Public Administration.



Chat Summary

  • Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have a history of identifying those who are left behind and traditionally step in and reach out when government policies have failed. NGOs do crucial work and should be at the table to develop policy and participate in decision-making by governments.  Governments should not only view NGOs as watchdogs but instead as partners and implementers.
  • The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is at present discussing a global Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and collaboration framework with HelpAge International. This is expected to enhance opportunities to attract funding.
  • Is there data available on the effects of COVID-19 on the ageing population in the Middle East?
  • Where and what is the role of the community in the context of responding to humanitarian emergencies? NGOs could be focusing on building the capacity for such responses within the local communities and link them to public funds from government programs.



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