Humanitarian Director Azadeh Hassani is no stranger to the chaos and destruction of humanitarian disasters, but it was a different kind of crisis that was jeopardising her leadership potential. “For a person like me, coming from a culture where being a female doesn’t necessarily put you in a best position for being a leader … I was seeking different things to give myself that legitimacy.”
Azadeh is quick to explain gender inequality is not isolated to just one culture. “I’ve seen it in many countries. Where being a woman and being young is not really working for you … I had the experience of being young woman in Iran, which is my mother country, in Afghanistan, in the Philippines, in Nepal, anywhere can have these challenges.”
Azadeh admits to projecting a mask “to pretend I’m not female”. The Humanitarian Director with Relief International would try “to be very harsh”, “being masculine … sometimes changing the tone of my voice, because I was just not comfortable with it … It was a thing internalised in me; that being a female is not necessarily a good thing for being a leader.
“Finally, with the help that I get in the Graduate Certificate of Humanitarian Leadership I realised what it meant… I cannot be a good manager until I started being comfortable with who I am, being comfortable in my skin, and learn to trust myself with all the qualities that I have.”
“I really felt like the course transformed me to a position of not only being better in delivering the work and being better at my job, but also as an individual … I left the Country Director who was feeling that I’m still very junior, doubtful about every decision, thinking twice about everything, and came back as a strong, confident leader.”
Azadeh believes that good leadership makes you a better humanitarian. “For me, it’s about how good we are and how well we deliver for the communities—that’s the end line for any humanitarian.
“What I say, I say with a lot of confidence. The focus the Graduate Certificate of Humanitarian Leadership gives to each and every individual is really unique. There is a lot of attention and support for you to transform from wherever you’re at, to a better leader. Honestly, for me, it’s been transformational.”