Sigrid Kaag

Sigrid Kaag

Alumna Sigrid Kaag is overseeing the elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons programme, in her role as head of the Joint Mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations.
Sigrid graduated from Exeter with an MA in Politics and Economics of the Middle East in 1988 and prior to that completed an M. Phil in International Relations at St Antony's College, University of Oxford.
Until 2010 she was the Regional Director for UNICEF in the Middle East and North Africa, a region with issues of high youth unemployment rates, child mortality and child marriage. Her achievements working in this area fill her with the most professional pride.

“Speaking up on child rights, advocating for their basic needs and influencing national policies to make sure child rights are being implemented have always been at the core of my values and drive for results,” she said. “Seeing results is one sign of success and success is a major source of pride.”

Sigrid’s own children are she said: “no doubt, my biggest source of joy.”

She added: “If I feel they thrive and feel good about themselves, I am happy and above all grateful.”

Originally from the Netherlands, Sigrid’s own parents were educators, who believed in making the most of oneself. Her supportive mother was particularly strong on women’s rights and women’s leadership issues and this helped shape the person Sigrid is today.

Sigrid’s own advice to others is: “Follow your instinct even if decisions do not appear rational to others, but you feel it is the right thing to do. Trust yourself. This is often very hard but usually one should not regret it, mistakes included! Only then do we learn and grow.”

Inspiring change is a cornerstone of Sigrid’s work and something she is passionate about – not least because she has seen what can be achieved.

“Driving change is hard work and an ongoing challenge but I know from experience that change is possible if it is achieved in a smart manner- by being inclusive of all those involved and having a collective approach,” sheexplained.

“One has to be clear to others and receive ideas, as well as critical feedback, in a way that it benefits professional and personal growth. Involving men and women also creates opportunities for others to participate in planning and implementing the changes, which lightens the task, spreads the organisational load, and creates a sense of ownership and familiarity among the people affected.

“This is a journey and perhaps inspiring change is just that?”