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I am blown away by the quality of the profiles I interacted with, by the quality of the conversations and discussions about our mandate and leadership. After four months in the organization, I can say that UNFPA is my new home.” So appraised Ms. Bidisha Pillai, the new UNFPA Liberia Representative, after participating in her first West and Central Africa Representative retreat. She assumed her new role with UNFPA on 7 June 2022.

The West and Central Africa Representatives’ retreat was held from 3-5 October 2022 in Dakar, Senegal, focusing on the leadership role and responsibilities of representatives in advancing the mission of the UNFPA. According to Ms. Pillai, “It is a retreat of representatives for representatives by representatives.”

It was unprecedented, according to Dr. Sennen Hounton, UNFPA Chad Representative who co-led the preparations and organization alongside other representatives. “This is the first time since I have been at UNFPA for 13 years that we have had the opportunity to co-create a retreat on our own. At the end of the three days, we learned a lot on diplomacy, how to manage offices, how to manage a program efficiently, how to manage operations but above all how to be a good leader and how to communicate and at the end.”

The retreat enabled the new representatives to blend, and share knowledge and experiences with those who had been there before. Besides being a warm, innovative and thought-provoking gathering, Ms. Hind Jalal, UNFPA Representative for Equatorial Guinea commended it as a solid team-building retreat.

UNFPA representatives are bestowed with the leadership responsibilities to fulfill the mission and mandate of the organization in the countries, a noble duty they take seriously and discharge with courage and humility.

In the wake of the recent changes, Dr. Richard Tiemoko returns to the region as Benin’s new representative after 14 years of service. “To meet my colleagues again here at the beginning of my mission in Benin is a very nice experience to share expectations and experiences and to prepare myself to return to the region. I am ready to go to Benin and continue UNFPA's work on the field in Benin, knowing that I have the support of the whole UN system… and the regional office.”

Meanwhile, Congo’s new Representative is Mr. Victor Rakoto. He thought it was a unique opportunity to spend valuable time with his peers who shared knowledge and experiences to ensure that the country programs were effectively and efficiently implemented and that human and financial resources were appropriately managed.


UNFPA Regional Director for WCARO, Ms. Argentina Matavel Piccin, felt very encouraged to have spent time with her team of representatives from the 23 countries, given their role to drive and accelerate achieving the three transformative results in the field.

“Our organization has realized that indicators, the three transformative results of our strategic plan, are lagging. As a result, the women and girls of this region are still not accessing all the services and information they need to make the right choices for their sexual reproductive health and to fulfil their needs. And this includes the young people who are the majority in this region.” Ms. Argentina Matavel expresses the concern of UNFPA top management.


These concerns were at the background of the three-day retreat during which the team reflected on what it may have missed over the past decades of work in this region. Hence, they had quality time with inspirational speakers on social norms, maternal health, communication and different fields that we have relied on people from all over the organization and outsiders.

Wrapping up the gathering, the WCARO Regional Director thought it was critical that the 23 representatives were committed to ensuring a change for the better. “We can move that needle to the better lives of our women and girls and the young people. And so as we move towards the 2030 mark of the SDGs, we want to get there and be able to say yes, we had a team of leaders who are committed, we are part of the region and who really can show through the lives of the people what they have done.”


It is worth noting that the representative retreat is a logical follow-up to several strategic gatherings held this year to get things right in the region. These have included but were not limited to, the 2022 regional leadership meeting held in Lomé, Togo, from 28 February to 1 March 2022, a retreat of Regional Operations Managers in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire and most recently, a retreat of Deputies and Assistant Representatives that held from 23-25 August 2022, in Saly, Senegal.