Danielle Engel

Danielle-Engel-visageHRS-Label-10-ans-HRSNotre série de 10 parcours de femmes inspirantes et remarquables, nées à la Clinique Bohler est désormais complète avec l'histoire de Danielle Engel, experte technique en sante des adolescents au sein du Fonds des Nations Unies pour la Population .Découvrez le profil d'une luxembourgeoise à New York, engagée, passionnée pour son travail, fidèle à ses convictions et à la cause des femmes.

Découvrez son parcours, ses engagements, ses défis, sa vision de la femme au 21 siècle.


Interview de Mme EnGEL

I’m Danielle Engel. I was born at the Clinique Bohler in June 1975. I am currently working for the United Nations as a Technical Specialist on Adolescent Health and Development at the United Nations Population Fund.

Could you tell us your career path ?

After getting my master’s degree from the College of Europe, I had the great privilege to start working for the United Nations. My first posting was in Niamey, Niger, a landlocked country in West Africa and one of the poorest in the world. Here I was responsible for developing programmes which promoted maternal and adolescent health. After this first professional experience in development, I worked for a brief amount of time for Ministry of Foreign Affairs , at the time when Luxembourg assumed the presidency of the Council of the European Union. I returned later to the UN, this time to Quito, Ecuador where I led a UN programme which aimed at improving development outcomes for young people living in a conflict zone bordering Colombia. My work here focused mainly on HIV/AIDS and gender based violence. In 2007 I moved to New York, where I am working since in the Technical Division at the United Nations Population Fund’s Headquarters. Here I am providing technical advice and support to our country teams around the globe on issues related to adolescent health and development, including for example the introduction of the new HPV vaccine for girls or helping countries develop strategies to reduce the practice of child marriage which still robs millions of girls of their childhood every year.

How did you choose your profession? Was it your childhood dream?

Since I was very young I had an admiration for the United Nations and its noble mandate to solve complex problems everywhere; from ending conflict and alleviating poverty, to combating climate change and defending human rights. In this sense it was absolutely a childhood dream which came true when I was able to join United Nations as my very first job. I always enjoyed working in multi-cultural teams with people from all backgrounds and cultures who have wide perspectives, experiences, expectation and different approaches to solving a problem. So when the government of Luxembourg granted me the opportunity to start my professional career with the UN in Africa, I was really thrilled.

Was it difficult to gain acceptance as a woman? Are you often confronted with stereotypes in a career like yours?

Fortunately I am working in an organization which mandate carries gender equality and women empowerment at its heart. At UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund), we recognize the full potential women have to be agents of change and drivers of progress. We are supporting initiatives that improve women's health and expand their choices in life. Still, despite solid evidence demonstrating the centrality of women’s empowerment to reducing poverty, promoting development and addressing the world’s most urgent challenges, gender equality remains an unfulfilled promise in many countries and for millions of women.

What is your greatest achievement?

That is a difficult question to answer. On a personal level, I think, choosing my husband and having children has been the best decision I ever took. At the professional level, I was very fortunate to be able to work directly with wonderful women and men in developing countries, with whom we achieved significant advances in public health. But the real sense of achievement comes when you realize that your work touches the life of the most vulnerable. One such situation for example was when we set up a mobile clinic in a rural area in Niger, Africa to reach nomadic populations with maternal and neonatal care services. At one of my missions in that region I witnessed how a midwife, which we had deployed, helped deliver a baby boy. Without her help this little guy would have had a very rough start. It was a happy moment of all of us.

What was the biggest challenge you have ever faced?

Probably packing up my bags, after college, and starting a job in a country that is one for the poorest on the planet. Not knowing what to expect and just jumping into this new adventure leaving all my friends behind was definitely a challenge.

What is your anti-stress trick?

15 minutes of yoga in the morning.

What is your motto?

I don’t really have a motto but I like a quotation from Mother Teresa which says “Peace begins with a smile” -I think there’s a lot of truth to that.

What kind of baby were you ? What kind of little girl were you ?

Based on what I’m told, I was a very easy going and happy baby. I smiled a lot and was a curious little girl. I have a twin brother, so I’m also hearing that I was very protective and sometimes a bit bossy with him. In adolescence we became best friends and are very close till today.

What is your earliest childhood memory ? Do you have any childhood anecdotes to share ?

The very first thing I remember, was when I was about four years old and my little baby sister was born. I clearly recall driving to the hospital picking her up. I also remember that we children were not allowed into the maternity ward, a fact which disappointed me tremendously.

What are your passions ?

My passion is spending time with my children and see them learn and grow. Plus I love my job and the many places and people it allows me to discover. It is really a great gift.

Are you able to protect yourself by making time for yourself ? What are your resources ?

Not so much. I’m travelling a lot and when at home I focus on family life- so sometimes it can be difficult to find time for myself. But then again when I’m home I really enjoy the company of my husband and kids. I am a very social person so I generally don’t feel a big need for time alone.

Who is the person you admire the most ?

A person like Nelson Mandela had my full admiration. I’m completely impressed by the life of this great man who, after enduring so much hatred, was still able to reach out the hand for peace with his detractors. I think that is remarkable. The world needs more “Nelson Mandelas” especially today. On the personal level I admire my parents - both of them. I have a father who has always been an inspiration for me - he opened my eyes and heart to the world. My mother gave me a self-confidence and taught me to put other people first. I am the person I am today because of the education and the love they both gave me.

What are the most important values to you ?

Honesty and empathy are for me the most important elements of life.

What advice would you give to young mothers regarding education ?

I would say: remember to breathe deeply and often - don’t stress out and trust your instincts.

Where were you 10 years ago ?

10 years ago, 2005, I was leaving Brussels after an intense professional experience and packing my bags to take up a new assignment in Ecuador for the United Nations. Again ready to start from scratch a new life!

What life did you wish for 10 years ago ?

I have never been living my life with roadmap in mind- but I knew I wanted to do a meaningful job, I wanted to find love, and I wanted to have children one day…

What changed the most about me during the last 10 years ?

I became a mother, which really changes your life as probably every mother knows. Life has become more hectic but also richer. Having children taught me a lesson of gratitude and compromise. It inspires me every day to work towards being a better person – more understanding, more empathic, more patient , more thoughtful, more organized…

« If you were »

A music

A campfire song

An animal

A dog- my favorite animal

A country

Luxembourg. After many years living abroad, Luxembourg is still very much my reference; it’s here where I’m at home

A dish

Spaghetti- the kind only my mother can make

A color

Green- the color of hope. I’m a positive person, I like to look on the bright side

A perfume

Jasmine flower

What you need to know about me

I can be suborn- when I have an idea and I am convinced this is the way to go, I am very determined to get it done.

I wish I had a second chance to/for…

I don’t like living life looking backwards.

What I would like to change about myself

To be a little more patient …

What I regret

That I have never played the guitar.

What scares me

Losing someone I love

What I learned to love about myself

The fact that I rarely hold grudges and my ability of letting go of what I cannot change

What pushes me to keep going

This desire to be the change I want to see in the world. Or to say it with Baden-Powell’s words: to ”leave this world a little better than you found it”. That’s what pushes me forward.

Being a woman today is …

Being a woman today means for me being infinitely grateful for the women before me who fought for my rights.