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Meet Arora Akanksha, The 34-Year-Old Running For U.N. Secretary-General

. 4 min read . Written by Siddhesh Suman
Meet Arora Akanksha, The 34-Year-Old Running For U.N. Secretary-General

Arora Akanksha, an Indian-Candian woman and United Nations auditor, has recently declared her candidacy for the role of U.N. Secretary-General. She is also the first person known to challenge an incumbent who’s seeking a second term., and the first millennial-generation candidate! If she wins, she will be the first-ever woman to lead the United Nations! 

Critical Of The Work Being Done By the U.N., She Decided To Run For The Role To Bring About Change

Arora Akanksha’s decision to run for U.N. Secretary-General comes from her family’s background as refugees. Her grandparents fled to India from Pakistan during the 1947 partition. When asked about the possibility of losing to Antonio Guterres, the current U.N. Secretary-General, she says “refugees have no plan B, hence I have no plan B”. 

Arora Akanksha was born in Haryana, India, and moved to Saudi Arabia while still a child. Later, she came back to India for her schooling and stayed till the age of 18. She went on to pursue her higher education in Canada and graduated with honours from York University.  

She was hired by the United Nations in 2016 to help them improve their internal financial control. Her excitement, and admiration for the U.N., didn’t last long. In an interview with the New York Times, she said “The system is so amazing on the outside, but there’s no coherence for getting things done.”

She also talks about the big awakening moment that led her to run for the U.N. secretary-general. Within just a few weeks of working in the U.N., she met with an accident and was struck by a taxi on her way home from work. While laying on the hospital bed she thought to herself, “If I died, what would my legacy be?” 

After her recovery, she went on to work in Uganda where she saw a child eating mud out of hunger. That upsetting image imprinted in her mind, and she couldn’t stop thinking about it. She reported the incident to a senior U.N. official in New York but was stunned by his nonsensical response. “Mud has iron,” he told her.

Arora Akanksha running for UN secretary general
United Nations

Akanksha then dedicated herself to learning more about U.N. history. She went back to school while still working, and attended Columbia University’s graduate program in public administration. Here she befriended Anne-Carine Frederique, a Haitian-American and a former intern at the United Nations. They connected over their shared criticisms of the U.N., and now they manage Arora’s U.N. Secretary-General campaign together. 

Support And Applause Is Pouring In For Akanksha, Even When Some People Are Still Dismissing Her

Arora Akanksha has not yet been officially endorsed by any powerful members of the U.N., nor has she been discouraged from running for Secretary-General. 

Mary Robinson, a former High Commissioner for Human Rights and former president of Ireland,  who was once considered a contender for U.N. Secretary-General, asserted in a statement that Arora’s candidacy is “completely healthy”.  “I share many of the concerns raised by Arora Akanksha about the need to promote more women and younger staff members into management and leadership roles,” she said.

Despite all the support, there are a few who consider her candidacy a futile effort.

Edward Mortimer, a former United Nations official said in one of his statements “I’m sure she has no chance, and equally sure that she knows that. It’s a brave way of demonstrating unhappiness which I’ve no doubt is quite widely shared by her colleagues.”

Arora Akanksha has been working on her campaign without taking any leave from work. She says she has received a lot of positive response from her co-workers and almost 2,600  votes on her website and is aiming to make her case to the U.N. in the coming months. She says, “This is not even a place that challenges, because they go through countries politically and negotiate. So yeah, this is a straight-on challenge, and I don’t want to play games or anything, I just want to run an honest campaign.”

Arora Akanksha
Picture by: Celeste Sloman for The New York Times

It’s 2021 and it is high time that a woman dares to create history, and lead an institution as powerful as the United Nations. Arora Akanksha’s brave decision to stand up and run for U.N. Secretary-General is a testament to the fact that if you really want something, you have to take action and go for it. 

Kudos to Arora Akanksha, who’s raising her power and breaking barriers to do what she believes needs to be done!

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