Milen Kidane

GC Europe (EMA cohort 1998/1999)


Milen Kidane has been working with UNICEF Nigeria as Chief Child Protection since June 2017. In close collaboration with government and other key stakeholder, Milen provides strategic management, technical guidance and oversight and quality assurance of the UNICEF supported Child Protection Programme in Nigeria. As Chief of Child Protection, Milen leads the technical development, tracking and oversight of convergent programme strategies and approaches to maximize holistic results for children.

Between 2011 and 2017, Milen worked with UNICEF Eastern and Southern Regional Office (ESARO) as a Child Protection Specialist, focusing on Justice for Children and Civil Registration and Vital Statistics. In this capacity, Milen provided technical guidance to 21 countries in eastern and southern Africa.

Milen has almost 20 years of experience in managing child protection programmes throughout Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. Milen joined UNICEF-Eritrea in 2000 as a consultant and has worked with as a Emergency Child Protection Specialist in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq and has also managed field offices in Northern Uganda and Trinidad and Tobago.

Milen is an impassioned child rights advocate, engaging in legal reform and enhancing prevention and response services through a system approach for all vulnerable and at-risk children in both development and humanitarian settings.

Milen holds a Master’s Degree in International Human Rights and Democratization, from the University of Padua, Italy and a Bachelor’s Degree in International Affairs from the University of Virginia. Milen is of Eritrean origin, born in Ethiopia, grew up in Vienna, Austria and is an Austrian citizen.

What motivates you to work on children’s rights?

I am motivated by the knowledge that despite significant gains made to improving the rights and welfare of children of the years, children are still vulnerable and at risk to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation – irrespective of their sex, age, country of origin, whether they are from high, middle or low income groups, regardless of their social, religious, ethnic and migration status, their physical or mental ability or sexual orientation or whether they are in humanitarian, recovering or development contexts. The world may have improved systems and services to reduce maternal and child health, 100 per cent immunization rates, we may have reduced stunting and increased access to potable water and school enrolment rates. One of these days, we may come up with a vaccine for COVID-19 virus. But until we figure out a way to end the power imbalances between adults and children, or break the silence and stigma, or the social norms around child abuse, or end impunity for perpetrators of this violence, we will, unfortunately, continue to record cases of child violence, sexual exploitation. This is why I work every day to help prevent and ensure adequate response to child victims.

What gives you hope regarding the current developments and the future of children’s rights?

My hope stems in knowing how much the world has changed in favor of children in a relatively small time and that by persevering, the world can change even more. I am hopeful that each child who is aware of their rights and their role and responsibility in promoting and protecting other children’s rights, including their right to report violations of rights, will grow up a little more aware, empowered and equipped to do their part in the protection, promotion and reporting on child protection issues. While Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai are among the most well-known child advocates, every day child rights heroes exist, contributing to shifting social norms in their own families and communities and triggering action to enhance protection and support for child survivors. My hope lies in all these child rights advocates.

Which skill/knowledge that you acquired during the master are you currently using in your work?

All. The masters programme helped me appreciate the importance of the ‘work’ that lies behind promoting and protecting human rights for government and development partners, private sector, for civil society, communities, traditional and religious leaders, as well as actors communities and individuals.