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Dianne Arboleda is IIRR’s Global Learning Program lead, based in the Philippines, she was interviewed by Michael Carrady, Operations Intern, IIRR.


Q: Tell us something about your career to date.

My career started with my work in a number of NGOs supporting rural communities, initially in my home province, Negros Occidental in Western Visayas, Philippines. Later I was relocated to Manila, joining IIRR as a Program Specialist for Capacity Building. Thereafter, I became a United Nations volunteer and worked in Indonesia, The Gambia, Botswana and Timor-Leste, and later worked as Technical Consultant for the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), now UN Women in Timor-Leste. I then joined Voluntary Service Overseas as Gender Advisor on Improving Market Access for the Poor in Nigeria, and as an e-volunteer supporting VSO Tanzania on social accountability. Thereafter, back in the Philippines in 2018, I continued as a freelance development consultant and with VSO on selection and training of volunteers. I returned to IIRR in my current role in February 2022.

Q: Please explain a little about your role at IIRR.

I am currently leading the Global Learning Program (GLP) at the Regional Center for Asia (RCA). We are a team of three, with a Training Associate (Dulce), Program Assistant (Annie), and myself as Program Manager. I lead on work around capacity building and learning activities including developing training needs assessment tools, designing and reviewing course designs, and coordinating/facilitating sessions and support to marketing of courses. I also lead the monitoring and evaluation of courses. In addition, I support other learning initiatives and activities here at RCA and for the Philippine program, and soon with other country teams of IIRR. In addition, I provide support in developing concept notes and proposals for resource mobilization.

Q: What are your core principles and how do they tie in with those of IIRR?

I am a social worker and trainer by profession and have worked for almost 13 years as a Human Development Officer or community organizer with various NGOs. I am always reminded that people are at the core of development work; I respect and believe in each person’s being, regardless of gender, status in life, background, religious or political affiliation, etc. I believe that each has the right to self-determination and the right to choose what is best for one’s own self. Furthermore, I believe in the promotion of holistic development of people, that is with their respective families, groups, and communities. For me, these principles are of central importance to how I carry out my role.

Q: What are the main challenges you are seeing today in your region?

I now live in Quezon City, part of the National Capital Region. Our main challenge is primarily dealing with the impact of the pandemic, especially in poor communities of the region, and the rising positive cases of COVID-19. As to other neighboring regions of the country and other countries in Asia, I understand they face similar challenges, particularly the economic impact of COVID-19 and the challenge of meeting basic needs. Some areas are adjusting to the newly-elected officials following the new administration after last May’s national and local elections. Also, just this year, the Philippines and other countries in Asia were hit with natural disasters including typhoons (that caused flooding, landslides, etc.) and earthquakes. As to IIRR’s international courses and other learning activities, our main challenge is picking up again after COVID-19.

Q: What is the focus of IIRR Asia today?

IIRR Asia today, including the programs in the Philippines, Cambodia, and Myanmar, continues to focus on societal challenges such as poverty, malnutrition, natural resource degradation, limited access to health services, and poor quality of education. Hence, our projects focus on integrated nutrition in schools and communities, achieving food security and nutrition through small family farms, and leveraging climate smart villages (CSVs) as platforms for food security and climate change adaptation. Equally important are the efforts on improving livelihoods within biodiversity corridors.  Moreover, women’s economic empowerment is a key part of our work across all themes.

Q: What impact do you think IIRR is having?

I see significant impact through IIRR’s food and nutrition work. This enables students, parents/care providers/guardians, and teachers to promote the importance of nutrient-dense food and good eating habits. Additionally, the adoption of the family farming approach has improved the involvement of women, higher family income, and ensured greater access to diverse, safe, and locally-grown nutritious food. The promotion of climate smart agriculture has shown significant increases in production and yields, meaning better family nutrition and increasing incomes. One of things we need now is livelihood support to overcome the impact of the pandemic.

Q: As a humanitarian worker, what are the main challenges you face and what is it that you enjoy most about your work?

In terms of challenges, it is my colleagues who deal directly, day-to-day with people suffering the impact of poverty and its hardships who face the biggest challenges. My biggest challenge is finding more innovative options to enable people who would like to participate in training or learning programs but are unable to due to limited resources. As a humanitarian worker, I really enjoy providing support to others – encouraging, training, and providing technical guidance to individuals, groups, and communities to increase or enhance their knowledge and skills so that they, their families, and communities are able to benefit and thrive.

Q: Why IIRR?

I believe in supporting communities through participatory practices; this is at the core of IIRR’s mission. Since the GLP deals with capacity-building interventions, I feel confident that, in collaboration with colleagues, partners, and our participants themselves, we can continue to contribute towards delivering this person-centered approach as widely as possible.

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