People Champion Spotlight

“My resilience keeps me going”

Rose Baguma’s determination to make People for 2030 a success

UNDP People for 2030
6 min readMar 9, 2023

People for 2030 is fortunate to have some very talented People Champions who embody and inspire change in their respective Country Offices. The Spotlight series aims to highlight them and their efforts.

Rose Baguma, UNDP South Sudan

For Rose Baguma, Finance Specialist at UNDP’s Country Office in South Sudan and People Champion since 2019, the People for 2030 Focus Area: Taking Care of Our People is incredibly important. This is evident in her commitment to improving conditions in her Country Office and her community at large. Her resilience and altruistic endeavors outside of work reinforce her determination to make People for 2030 Strategy a success.

In this People Champion Spotlight, Rose talks about her thoughtful journey with UNDP thus far and her work as a People Champion.

Q1. What initially drew you to UNDP and how has your career evolved over the years?

I used to read somewhere about the importance of resilience. Growing up, the conditions and the context at home made you resilient even if you did not understand the meaning of the word at a young age. I started seeing and thinking about this when I began to read about poverty, development, and security. Then I became aware of the work of the United Nations (UN), and developed an interest in how they were fostering development in countries. As a young adult, I became curious about how the UN tackled poverty and I discovered UNDP, and specifically its work in building resilient communities, which helped me understand resilience from a development perspective.

I joined UNDP in 2003, initially in the Crisis Bureau, previously known as the Emergency Response Division (ERD) and Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR), respectively. But, all that time, my focus was on Finance and Resource Management.

In addition to being passionate about numbers — mathematics, I like to read about development, especially the financing of it. In fact, the first book that I bought after receiving one of my first UNDP paychecks was the Development Dictionary, which I still read today. It is very persuasive and challenging for anyone who works in the development sector. I would go to my then-supervisor with the many questions I had after reading essays in the book. His explanations were more about UNDP’s resilience-building role, and that shaped our daily discussions in the unit. I think of it as a welcome coincidence, because the theme of resilience initially drew me to UNDP and it keeps me going.

Q2. What is your favorite thing about working in UNDP?

The evolution of how we approach operations is my favorite thing about working with UNDP. Operations are no longer transactional as they were in the past. For example, in order to achieve operational excellence in the context of our Country Office, we strive to build resilient operations by, among other things, including digital transformation. The whole process makes me appreciate the small things that we sometimes take for granted, like using the internet to work. I was thrilled to be part of the User Acceptance Testing (UAT) for two organization-wide IT projects, coming from a Country Office where the infrastructure and context are more challenging. But it also shows how resilient we are. We can drive the change we want and achieve results despite challenging circumstances.

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Q3: What motivated you to be a People Champion?

I am passionate about my work, I work extremely well in difficulty situations, I like being challenged — as it makes me more innovative and helps me think outside the box, and most important of all, I am extremely resilient. I was People Champion for Phase 1 in South Sudan, so I didn’t hesitate when I was asked to continue in Phase 2. I believe it has helped us complete the initiatives we had previously started. The CO has implemented many projects including our Tree Planting Initiative. We are also taking care of our people in ways that help them navigate their career growth and deal with stumbling blocks on their path

People for 2030 also empowered the CO to “kill many birds with one stone.” For example, the talent mapping initiative, coupled with targeted training in different areas have improved interviewing skills clinics and offered career growth opportunities, while encouraging engagement and progression within the organization.

Working for an organization like UNDP is also a privilege, allowing one to take care of immediate and extended family, which is at the heart of our rich culture. With the support of the CO Leadership, we have been able to adapt the Strategy’s Focus Area number 3 to our needs by, for instance, including engagements and negotiations with local commercial banks to provide loans to staff members. This has never been done before and has gone a long way in supporting staff, their families and their communities. Staff have become more productive, and we are seeing how a lot can be achieved if staff members don’t have to worry about their family responsibilities. This is why I am in support of continued investment in the People Strategy.

Rose (pushing the wheelbarrow) during the Tree-planting initiative of UNDP’s South Sudan Country Office

Q4: What is the one initiative that you have implemented in South Sudan to transform the work culture over the last three years that you are most proud of?

While we have implemented many initiatives, one of my favorites is our determination to improve women’s economic empowerment. In South Sudan, women with small businesses are not able to open bank accounts. These banks require different documents to open accounts. Together with the Programme and Procurement Units as well as other colleagues from other units, we identified a group of women who successfully passed UNDP’s stringent procurement requirements but did not own a bank account, despite already providing catering services in locations outside Juba. As part of the initiative, we engaged a local commercial bank to open bank accounts for the women under their Corporate Social Responsibility. The women are now UNDP active vendors and suppliers, and I am happy to know they contribute positively in the development of their community. Through this initiative we are able to deliver development services in our own unique way, and this is thanks to People for 2030.

Q5: Who are you when you are not working as a Finance Specialist?

I am very much a community person; I do volunteer work, and this is something that is very personal to me. I am also a student, one that does not go to school but learns every day. I like to listen to my colleagues — they do a lot of amazing work in South Sudan. I learn, relearn and unlearn. I also enjoy listening to the different stories of the resilient women who provide cleaning and security services in our UNDP-managed residential compounds, where we exchange ideas of stubborn hope and faith and learn from one another. Everyone I come across and meet has something to offer. I must say, I learn every day from everyone especially the different resilient women of South Sudan. It helps me not only in my professional work, but in my personal growth. It is very humbling and teaches me how to remain grounded.