By Marivir R. Montebon
New York – “Real change starts from the heart,” reckons Merly Barrete Barlaan, FilAm woman leader who spent a hiatus of 12 years from the US to work in home country Philippines facilitating sustainable development and women leadership.
Now she is back in the East Coast, rolling her sleeves for her return at the United Nations NY headquarters. Barlaan recently assumed being deputy director for the UN office and International Vice President of the Women’s Federation for World Peace International.
“It was tough to change the mindset of rural women and mothers, but once you inspire them to realize they have the power to change themselves, development for the family and community begins,” she said when asked what was the most challenging part of her development work.
Barlaan, mother of 5, and who was OSM! Magazine’s debut feature in 2012 said that she is “debriefing herself from the care-free beautiful life in the Philippines.”
During her stint in the Philippines, Barlaan founded the Center for Wisdom and Character Excellence (CWaCE) in her home province Bohol in 2009. She also trail blazed the programs for women and youth such as the Mothers Heart Network, 10,000 Heroes League: Youth Peace Leadership Program, Service for Philippines: Culture of Heart Encounter, Mister and Miss Pure Love Leadership and Beauty Pageant, and PROJECT HOPE: HTM Formula in Creating Heavenly Communities.
“My work now although I love it, is of completely different nature. For the last 12 years I was working in the grassroots, now I’m at the other end of the spectrum of making change and impact. Before I was just taking care and paying attention to one chapter, now I have to be mindful and think of serving the other 100 or more chapters,” she said.
Early this year, Barlaan started with the UN Office with a daring fundraising campaign with environmental advocacy embedded.
Currently, she is launching the CSW65 campaign. “I’m working with a team of brilliant young women surrounded with virtuous advisers. I am confident that I am in good hands working with the dream team.”
Barlaan had been working from her home in New Jersey, with her husband and two boys since the lockdown in March 2020. In the spring, she said she will fly back to the Philippines to turn – over her duties as president of WFWP – Philippines and collect her two daughters. They will fly back to the US in spring.
As a peace advocate with special focus on women, youth, family, and community development, Barlaan plays an active role in the United Nations NGO community for the past twenty-four years. She is a hands-on leader on entrepreneurship, community development, NGO management, and youth and family coach.
These experiences gave her the confidence to take on the challenge of providing a vision of greatness to her home country amidst poverty and moral decay.
Barlaan traveled extensively between the USA and the Asia Pacific region serving as a lecturer, mentor, and coach. She promotes peace leadership education, strengthening families, empowering women, and raising the youth to become global leaders of heart and character. #