A voice for gender diversity in the humanitarian sector.


Saman Rejali, Associate in Law and Policy Forum


1.      Hello Saman, can you introduce yourself in a few words?

I’m Iranian-Canadian and grew up in Toronto. I moved to Switzerland four years ago to do my master’s degree at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies based here in Geneva.

I’m very passionate about bolstering women’s rights and gender equity, particularly in the framework of international law and policy, and have strived to orient both my work and studies in this direction. Right now, I work as an Editor at the International Review of the Red Cross (the Review). As a part of my portfolio, I carry out thematic work with a focus on gender and serve as the lead editor for content on digital technologies and war.

Before joining the ICRC, I worked for the Kofi Annan Foundation, where I was trained in speechwriting, policy analysis and programme work. While completing my master’s degree, I did a very enriching internship at the United Nations Population Fund, where I carried out work on gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights, and I also worked as a gender and equity intern at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the summer before graduation.

2.      When did you join the ICRC? In which department/unit?

I joined the ICRC in September 2018, as the Associate with the Review team, based in the ICRC’s Law and Policy Forum unit.

3.      Why did you decide to do a traineeship at the ICRC?

I always wanted to engage in work that would fuel and drive me. After I finished my bachelor’s degree and was trying to figure out my next steps, I realized that in my case this meant carving out a career that would be related to supporting human rights or humanitarian efforts. The ICRC is the world’s leading humanitarian organization, so when I saw that there was an opening there, I was enthused by the idea of working to contribute to its principled mandate. On a more personal level, I’d had the chance to talk with a few people who had served as associates in the organization, and they told me, based on their anecdotal experiences, that they had received appropriate training and opportunities to put their skillsets to use and take on an increasing level of responsibility.

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

As an associate at the Review, I wore many hats and took the initiative to get involved in several side-projects. I was very lucky to have a supervisor who encouraged me to make the most of my year as an associate and to tailor the post to my interests, while also carrying out the work required of me. To this end, during my time as an associate, I worked on content related to gender and international humanitarian law, collaborated with our book review editor to solicit and publish relevant book reviews, and, along with managing our spontaneous submissions, I carried out editorial work across several issues of the journal.

I also served as a peer reviewer for the ICRC’s humanitarian law and policy blog, co-authored a piece for the blog on intersectionality and humanitarianism, and actively strived to put in the extra work to ensure we include more articles and book reviews from female authors and other writers with diverse profiles and unique perspectives. For me, one of the most enriching parts of my job was negotiating with authors and various stakeholders about the content that appears in each issue and article of the Review – it allowed me to complement my work of carrying out intensive editing, research and writing with a lot of collaborative projects and teamwork.


"I also co-founded the ICRC’s Gender, Diversity and Inclusion (GDI) Committee, because along with a few other associates we came together and realized that, as the “entry-level” workforce at the organization, too many of us tend to have the same profiles and backgrounds."


To this end, we set up the GDI to work with Human Resources, the Diversity and Inclusion team, the Staff Association and staff across the organization more broadly to bridge the gender, diversity and inclusion gaps present. This is especially critical since many associates stay on at the ICRC, so having more diverse cohorts of associates (who feel included after they’re recruited and are promoted in a gender-equitable manner) means the organization is more equitable, diverse and inclusive, which also leads to better output and performance.

5.      Do you have any special memories or anecdotes to share with us?

I think one of my favourite memories from being an associate is from a trip our unit, the Law and Policy Forum, took to Solferino, Italy, this past summer. While the entire visit was fun and provided the chance to bond with colleagues, the most significant day for me was on 22 June when we all gathered, with other participants from across the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, to walk from Solferino to Castiglione, along the route taken by those who carried the wounded during the battle of Solferino. It was truly awesome to see so many different National Societies, and members of the ICRC and International Federation present all together, lighting their torches to honour the memory of Henry Dunant and the battle that inspired him to write his memoir.


"For me, seeing so many people from across the world belonging to the Movement really cemented in my mind how we are part of a much larger thread."


6.      What are your future plans?

I plan to continue carrying out work related to gender and humanitarianism or human rights – be it through policy and legal work, research, diplomacy or advocacy. 

7.      Any advice for future associates?

The associate experience differs widely from one department, unit or team to the next. In my opinion, one of the most important factors that can make or break the experience is having a good supervisor/manager and team, so it’s very important to ensure not only that you are able to meet the job’s requirements, but that the supervisor and team meet your requirements in terms of management and team culture.