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9th International Rainwater Catchment Systems Conference
"Rainwater Catchment: An Answer to the Water Scarcity of the Next Millennium."
Petrolina, Brazil - July 1999

Section 6: Gender and Community Related Aspects of Rainwater Catchment

Paper 6.2

Women in Community Communication in the Watershed

Jessica Calfoforo Salas
Kahublagan Sang Panimalay Fnd Inc.


Communication is a vital element in working with watershed protection, rainwater catchment maintenance, or forest rehabilitation. Communication is, in fact, the heart of development work. It facilitates new understanding, new concepts and ideas. It bridges cultures, it encourages, as well as making people think and act. It could give new directions and enable people to move and leap or it could stifle them with fear, ignorance, and apathy. People cannot not communicate. Communicating means living.

This is the experience of a group of women doing rehabilitation work in two watersheds in the central part of the Philippines. These women held hands with the women in the community in order to forge the difficult part of convincing the whole community to participate in the work of protection and rehabilitation of two natural rainwater catchment basins, the headwaters of a major watershed on an island.

The learning of these women in communication and development is expressed in this paper. The learning dwells on the roles, time structure, hierarchical status and the prevailing mode of relationships of women, which had allowed them to experience the value of communication. This experience has an extensive influence in the forming of communication strategies (personal or organizational) to infuse change or development. For example, the effectiveness of a mother's role in child rearing is dependent on her personal communication strategies. A woman's prevalent role as a teacher at home, at school or in the community also demonstrates the effectiveness of communication. Nursing the sick, another popular role of women utilizes extensively communication not only at the physical level - both verbal and non-verbal, but also communication of empathy, sympathy, concern, caring, and other spiritual attributes.

Indeed, time is the essence, but for a woman, time is fluid and unconstraining. Time spent in nurturing, in nursing, in school, is not counted by the hours but by progress and intensity. Woman has learned and experienced that time, as a value, is not dominating but rather allows the leisure and the pleasure of molding and change. Many women have believed those men saying that in order to be productive, time should be precise and be allowed to control man. Many women of the cities have succumbed to such ideas but rural women are far from it. They have not reckoned time, yet they have accomplished much. This kind of valuing time (not simply called patience) has been a critical element in development communication.

In organizations, whether of social, political or economic in nature, women 's status is generally not on top. More so for a mountain woman, she occupies the middle or even the lower middle or the bottom levels. She is not isolated, she always relates with people, identifies with others and feels with them. This experience brings into fore the mode of relationships with others. The woman experiences lateral or horizontal modes of relationship, and not authority-based relationship. The demands and quality of peer relationship and peer leadership require unique skills in communication different from that of a managerial or authority-based relationship. To get things done, the woman has to handle communication effectively, not just the use of power.

With this woman-advantage, women from a development organization touched base with the women in the watershed.

PDF of full document (6pp, 25kb)

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