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Creating a culture of justice - Meet Rea Abada Chiongson from the IDLO

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by Impactpool

As a part of this months' gender parity campaign, we are delighted to share another exclusive employee spotlight. We aim to share interviews with international professional women working at some of the most important international organizations in the world.

Meet Rea Abada Chiongson, Senior Legal Advisor - Gender, at The International Development Law Organization (IDLO)

Name – Rea Abada Chiongson
Job Title – Senior Legal Advisor - Gender
Nationality - Filipino

Please could you tell us a little about yourself and your professional background?

I am currently IDLO’s Senior Legal Advisor on Gender.  I spearhead the implementation of IDLO’s gender objectives and lead support for the organization’s policy, programmatic and research work on justice for women and girls.

I have worked for more than 25 years on gender, rule of law, human rights and development issues across various countries and regions.   Previous to my current position, I was Gender and Justice Advisor at the World Bank’s Justice Reform Practice Group, Justice for the Poor Program, and the World Bank Institute’s Gender, Conflict and Fragility program. I also worked as a gender and law expert with various institutions including the Asian Development Bank, UN Women, United Nations Development Program, and Swiss Development Corporation, supporting State institutions in the development and implementation of legal and institutional frameworks on gender equality.

In my early years, I worked with various NGOs –  as a program officer at the International Women’s Rights Action Watch-Asia Pacific (2002-2005), as Deputy and Acting Secretary-General of the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism (1996-2001), and a staff lawyer with the Ateneo Human Rights Center (1996 to 2001).

When and why did you choose to work for IDLO?

I started working at IDLO in 2014.  IDLO was looking for a person who can design and lead the implementation of its first Gender Strategy and grow its work on women’s access to justice at the policy, programming and research fronts. Seeing how committed IDLO’s Senior Leadership was to growing its gender portfolio, I was thrilled to be given a valuable opportunity to work on with them on what is now a strong and core component of the organization’s work.

What do you believe are the most important skills needed for a career in international development?

Negotiation skills are very important to effective decision-making, great teamwork and managing conflicts.  Whether getting a job or pushing an innovative idea or project forward or persuading partners, in addition to hard knowledge and technical skills, I find being able to effectively navigate and negotiate is critical to achieving the desired outcome.

What according to you is the most effective way to address gender parity in the workplace?

To address gender parity, we need to begin at the recruitment processes. They have to be transparent and far-reaching – able to access women and their networks across various countries and regions, especially those in the Global South – as well as deliberate in enabling parity.  Organizations must be proactive about addressing implicit and explicit biases against gender, race, ethnicity, age, ability, and others, and challenge patriarchal and racial discourses about merit and qualifications.  Workplace indicators on sex, race, age, and other forms of discrimination should be developed and competently addressed.

Do you have a personal habit or trait that has been critical for your success?

I like leading through a collaborative process – exploring how everyone’s ideas, skills and power can contribute to building a better project, program or initiative that extends beyond a single person or team’s capacity. 

What decision accelerated your career the most?

My decision to work in a regional and later an international development bank.  Coming from a strong legal and human rights background, working in development economics was initially challenging but through the years enabled me to sharpen not just my work in law, human rights and gender, but also in development.  It brought me a new set of knowledge, skills, networks, and influence.

What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?

Challenge yourself always to adapt and innovate.

We know that many in our audience would like to hear some advice on how to get a job with an international organization like the IDLO, Do you have any good tips to share?

Do not undersell yourself. Take advantage of professional, leadership and mentorship programs.  Identify mentors and sponsors who can work with you to refine your career priorities and benefit from their experience, expertise and networks.  On a more practical level – tailor your CV to the organization and job you are applying for, and practice responding to potential interview questions.

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This article is produced as a part of Impactpool's Gender Parity month-long campaign in March 2021, supported by IDLO. Curated to shed light on gender parity in the International Public Sector and empower women with career resources, job opportunities, and employee spotlights, and a unique virtual career fair. 

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