Development projects: Urban research, informal settlements, migration, displacement, gender and the climate crisis

Since returning from master’s studies in London, I’ve worked on a few projects with different UN agencies, and got to immerse deeply with many communities in the process. I’m going to share some memories of my work in this post.

Characterizing informal settlements

In 2021, I became the National Researcher for UNDP’s Philippine study under the programme ‘Leaving No Migrants and Displaced Persons Behind: Integrated Development Approaches to Migration and Displacement among the Urban Poor in Asia and the Pacific.’ I immersed with four communities in Valenzuela City and Quezon City to study how we can characterize informal settlements, as framed by migration and displacement, sustainable livelihoods, resilience and climate change, and urban planning.

For the research, I reviewed international and national policies, as well as development reports to better understand the nexus of so many development themes. Focus group discussions (with communities, local government units, and the national government), validation meetings, and community immersion were all undertaken to characterize different contexts of informal settlements and migrant communities. There were so many learnings, from women’s roles in caring for communities to grassroots community planning and adaptation to climate impacts. While the research is unpublished, the study is meant to be used for further programming work in the country.

Gender mainstreaming and climate change adaptation with civil society

Also in 2021, I became the National Consultant for UN Women’s Training of Trainers under the Empower Project. The ToT aimed to build capacities of civil society organizations working on climate change, resilience, and disaster management to better mainstream gender and development into their work.

We invited with 27 civil society organizations as participants for the ToT. I invited the UP Center for Women and Gender Studies, the Climate Change Commission, the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, CARE Philippines, and the Climate Resiliency Field Schools and Climate Services (RWAN) to deliver lectures. These were about the national framework provisions on gender and climate change, gender mainstreaming in the project cycle (frameworks, tools, analysis and assessment, planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation), and cases of actual programs and projects in the country (agricultural sector, women in crisis and emergency response, and clean energy). It was thanks to our International Consultant in India who prepared the entire manual and training design that I was able to contextualize the training to the Philippine context.

Here’s a screen recording of the Padlet platform, where we uploaded all our ToT resources, from case studies to group exercises, from visual summaries to activities:

And here are the visual summaries of our event learnings:

Nexus of climate crisis and human mobility

As of 2022 — I am currently with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), tasked to write policy recommendations on the nexus of the climate crisis and human mobility. I am also tasked to lead community dialogues in project areas under the project ‘Climate Change Adaptation and Community Resilience in the Philippines’ or CARP. My communities are in Zamboanga City, Cotabato City, and Bulacan. I’m also supporting coordination with local governments across Luzon and Visayas for the project’s training component for next year. I’ll update this section as the work goes along.

Here are a couple of photos I took while going around coastal barangays in Zamboanga City two weeks ago:

To end, here’s a short thought and learning from my work — always be with people and communities and learn from their experiences and needs before conducting ‘planning,’ or writing and recommending ‘policy,’ or doing ‘development’ work.