WHO Regional Adviser for Prevention and response to sexual misconduct in South-East Asia
Anju Pandey is a feminist, humanist and gender trainer. She joined WHO’s Regional Office for South-East Asia as a Regional Advisor on prevention and response to sexual misconduct (PRS) in March 2023. This followed a long career as a development practitioner and gender specialist, as well as a decade at UN Women, where she worked on promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.
For Anju, the voice, choice, agency, safety and freedom of women and girls must be central to all transformative change relating to prevention and response sexual misconduct. “Those who hold power and privilege yet abuse it must be held to account and face consequences; those who experience sexual misconduct must be believed and supported; not fearful, but empowered,” she said.
In her new role, Anju is working with her team to embed the 10 actions in WHO’s Three-year strategy for the prevention and response to sexual misconduct in a region she sees as having vast socio-cultural diversity.
To achieve this, the team is working toward operationalizing a risk-based approach and designing actions to address those risks at local levels, using what she coins a “twin strategy”. First, they build team members’ knowledge of WHO’s overall policies, processes, procedures and strategy regarding the prevention of and response to sexual misconduct. At the same time, the team identifies and responds to the needs and priorities of differing contexts within the region, including through innovative solutions.
Talking about regional diversity, Anju said: “There is huge variation in the understanding of basic concepts and clarity on what to do when experiencing oneself or witnessing sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment, or for that matter, what these terms actually mean, as such behaviours are often normalized, accepted and not reported.” For her, translating WHO’s vision into local languages and cultures is a key element to achieving the Organization’s overall strategy.
Anju and her team are also maximizing efforts in building their internal capacities as well as those of the partners they work with to establish a chain of accountability. This close collaboration with other UN agencies and diverse stakeholders at both regional and country levels, means that the Regional Office can learn from others while sharing its own expertise.
The Regional Office is also working on integrating global strategic and policy-related developments at the regional level and will provide feedback to headquarters on what is learnt through this process.