Committed to the protection of civilians’ dignity, well-being and safety during conflict and violence.


Malvika Verma, Associate in Protection of Civilian Populations Unit


1.       Can you briefly tell us about yourself? 

I was born and brought up in Delhi, India, where I completed my schooling and undergraduate degree. I then had the opportunity to live in Bhutan and then Geneva, where I have now lived for three years. I completed a master’s degree at the Graduate Institute in Geneva. I had taken a keen interest in conflict studies since my undergrad, and the Graduate Institute offered a specialization in this field, so it seemed like a natural choice. I am a passionate feminist and feel grateful to all the women in my life who continue to influence my world view for the better. I am quite introverted and I tend to keep myself to myself, but I believe in building strong and meaningful relationships with friends and colleagues alike.

2.       Let’s go back to the beginning – when did you join the ICRC? Which team did you join? Can you tell us about its overall function and impact at the ICRC?

I joined the ICRC in June 2019 as an associate in the unit that deals with the protection of civilian populations. I have worked on two specific files within the unit – internal displacement and community-based protection. Several cross-cutting areas of work also sit within this unit, such as child protection, migration and digital risks.


"The unit as a whole provides strategic guidance and support to the field to ensure that the dignity, well-being and safety of civilians are respected by armed forces and armed groups during conflict and violence."


The unit works by holding dialogue with the parties to a conflict or violence and works with people affected by violence to strengthen their resilience and reduce their vulnerability. It also cooperates with with other organisations engaged in protection work to deliver more effective and relevant protection impacts.

3.       Why did you want to join an organization like the ICRC?

While pursuing my master’s degree, I developed an interest in humanitarian action and, specifically, protection. I was first introduced to the concept when I visited the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum back in August 2017. Since then, I have visited the museum every year – it has almost become a ritual now! It made perfect sense to me to make the most of living in Geneva by engaging in what Geneva is best known for and by working at the organization that serves as the guardian of IHL. It seemed like such a rare opportunity, so I actively built my profile to be suited to protection work. I chose academic courses that combined humanitarian action and IHL, and I took up internships that allowed me to broaden my knowledge and experience. I have always been very hands-on; back in my home town of Delhi, I had already worked with violence-affected communities. I have learnt a lot during my time in Geneva and I hope to be able to apply my skills and knowledge in a more operational setting very soon.

4.       As an associate, can you describe the scope of your responsibilities? What projects did you work on?

My responsibilities as an associate have been really varied. I joined the ICRC with some experience on addressing internal displacement-related challenges and protection more generally, but the ICRC’s mandate makes it a unique actor in the protection sector. Because my unit works on cross-cutting issues, I have had the chance to work on many different aspects of protection and IHL. I have had significant exposure to the ICRC’s operations and the opportunity to engage with colleagues in the field through regular briefings. It is extremely exciting to learn how the strategic guidance and operational tools that we produce at headquarters are being used on the ground – and it has made me more committed to work in an operational capacity at the ICRC.

5.       Could you share with us a memory from your experience as an associate? (something fun, warm, a moment that you will cherish)

I cannot choose just one memory, but every time I have seen how truly passionate and committed people at the ICRC are, I have been inspired, and that passion is something that will continue to inspire me in the future. People treat the space that the ICRC provides as more than just a workplace; they make it a part of their very being, their personality. Staff take pride in being a part of the organization and are always pushing to improve it, even if that means taking a step back and looking at what could be done better.


"It is humility combined with a true commitment to a cause that is bigger than oneself that drives everyone I have worked with. This pure passion is what I will cherish the most."


6.       What about the future – what are your plans?

With COVID-19 and the uncertainty it brings, it seems almost futile to think about the future! My immediate plans are still unclear but, as a long-term goal, I hope to be able to work in an operational setting.

7.       Do you have any advice for future associates?

Be hungry to learn. There are so many opportunities at the ICRC, you just have to find what is right for you in order to make the most of it, which may take time. You will find most people are extremely encouraging and nurturing, so don’t be afraid to speak your mind if you don’t agree with something.