Reconnecting with Rehab — New Horizons and a Continuing Commitment to Gender Equality

UNDP People for 2030
5 min readSep 15, 2023


Last time we spoke with Rehab Al-Sanabani, she was a Gender Analyst for UNDP in Yemen, working to empower women in her home country. She has since transitioned to a new role as a Gender and Crisis Specialist at UNDP HQ in New York, USA. We recently caught up with Rehab to learn about her new role. Two years on, her commitment to advancing gender equality remains resolute.

Rehab Al-Sanabani, Gender and Crisis Specialist

In recent years, Yemen has come under the global spotlight, not solely due to its enduring humanitarian crises, but also due to the relentless efforts of its unsung heroes laboring behind the scenes for a more promising tomorrow.

Rehab Al-Sanabani is one of them.

From her early days as a Gender Analyst at UNDP in Yemen to her current role in New York, Rehab’s career trajectory has been marked by an unrelenting commitment to empowering women and transforming crisis-ridden communities. Rehab specializes in integrating gender dimensions into development programming across various thematic areas in crisis environments. Her expertise spans a vast range from gender equality and women’s empowerment to monitoring and evaluation, data analytics, project design, and budgeting. Beyond these, Rehab is also proficient in strategic planning and crafting theories of change.

In the years since we last spoke to her, Rehab has continued to develop herself academically, starting a fellowship in Social Entrepreneurship while researching the intersection of Gender and Climate Change for her PhD. Her innovative approach to problem-solving has earned her recognition as ‘UNDP Global Innovator’. In her home country, she is celebrated as a role model and influencer for gender equality.


I had previously worked for UN agencies such as FAO and ILO as well as for civil society organizations in Yemen where I led the development and review of gender equality strategies, policies and analysis related to gender equality.

My journey with UNDP began with a personal ambition for my country and its people. As a Yemeni woman, I wanted to reduce gender inequalities and empower other Yemeni women to contribute to recovery and sustainable development. This ambition harmonized perfectly with the mission of the UNDP. In Yemen, UNDP is known for its exceptional work in eradicating poverty, reducing inequalities, and especially in advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Rehab in her New York workstation.

I pursued the opportunity to join the HQ Gender and Crisis Bureau with the aim of leveraging my field and regional experiences to make a substantial impact on gender equality and crisis response.

Drawing from my insights into challenges on the ground, my goal is to shape responsive and inclusive policies and initiatives that translate into tangible, real-world changes for the communities we serve. Crucially, I’m committed to ensuring that these efforts are not only achievable but are also underscored by robust mechanisms for accountability and transparent reporting. My ultimate aspiration is to lead transformative actions that bring about lasting positive change in the lives of those affected by crises and advance the cause of gender equality.

Tell us about your current role.
My current role as Gender and Crisis Specialist is within the Gender Team and the Policy, Knowledge, and Partnership Team in the Crisis Bureau at UNDP.

I work to bridge the gap between immediate crisis response and long-term sustainable solutions. While my primary focus is supporting the transformative approach that enables women to actively change the cycle of fragility, I also offer technical support to Country Offices, reinforcing the gender components of UNDP’s crisis-related data mechanisms, and amplifying its accountability and reporting. I prioritize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with a primary focus on SDG5 — Gender Equality. I also work to ensure the incorporation of gender equality principles into all the other SDGs.

How has the transition to New York been for you?
Navigating a new professional landscape, and doing so at a higher level, can be challenging. However, I am thankful for the abundant resources available at UNDP and the guidance of my supervisor Kennedy Chibvongodze. His coaching and encouragement have steered me towards numerous learning opportunities.

The presence of inspiring leaders like Raquel Lagunas, Head of the Gender Team at UNDP, has also helped me. Her mentorship has provided me with the empowerment I need to overcome obstacles and excel in the new environment. The transition has been a smooth and exhilarating experience.

What are some highlights of your UNDP career so far?
I was part of the team that spearheaded the implementation of the Gender Equality Seal for Development and supported the roll out of the Women, Peace, and Security National Action Plan in Yemen. I also undertook several detailed assignments in Central Asia and Europe and in the Caribbean.

As a People Champion in Phase 1 of the People for 2030 Strategy, I enjoyed driving the agenda with a focus on providing an enabling environment for women and men to work on.

Rehab has been recognized for outstanding achievements in her work.

Last year, I was recognized for excellence in implementing practices that advance gender parity in the UN system. That was one rewarding experience I cherish deeply.

What advice do you have for people considering UNDP as an employer?
While every day at the UNDP comes with its own set of challenges, it’s the impact they have and the real-world change they affect that makes every obstacle worthwhile. UNDP is one of the most transformative places to work.

Being a part of it means actively bringing a difference to people’s lives, finding sustainable solutions to challenges, and being surrounded by a team of diverse experts who lead by example.

People for 2030 underscores UNDP’s unwavering commitment to diversity and gender equality by actively empowering women staff members. By fostering gender parity, UNDP not only strengthens its workforce but also advances the global agenda for sustainable development. See some targeted initiatives and policies that are creating an inclusive work environment at UNDP.