Science Literacy and Political Literacy: A Women's Interactive Forum on Climate Change

Updated: Sep 29, 2021

Part of WeDpro and Curiosity's efforts in women's education and empowerment was to hold an interactive forum about climate change for Typhoon Haiyan-affected women (representing 7 barangays) based on scientific knowledge and knowledge about disaster governance. The effort emerged from ethnographic research findings that indicated residents' conflicting views about the origins of the typhoon and stances regarding disaster resilience.


The forum started with marine biologist Niva Gonzales from WeDpro going through the basics of climate change science, including an explanation of terms such as "global warming" and "greenhouse effect". This was followed by a discussion of how hazards from natural and anthropogenic forces drive disaster.


Niva and Gonzales and Aida Santos (of WeDpro) next discussed the Disaster Risk Reduction Management Act of the Philippines and the citizen rights and responsibilities and government accountabilities in relation to the various phases of disaster management. The discussion also covered the structure of Local Disaster Risk Reduction Management Councils to clarify the government agencies that should provide assistance during disaster. This session concluded with a discussion of how disasters affect women and women's rights and contributions during times of catastrophe.


Image 1. Post-disaster livelihood rehabilitation expert Niva Gonzales discusses "climate change" in lay terms. Image credit: Pamela Cajilig.


Curiosity next conducted a series of demonstrations about shelter resilience. With women from the audience participating, Architect Pia Maranan and Curiosity co-founder Birdie Salva showed how housing features (such as a hipped roof) can be more disaster resilient than others.


Aside from co-conceptualising the forum, my specific role was to conduct a debate among the attendees around certain statements made by research participants from the community about local attitudes about disaster, including:

  1. Only the rich can prepare for disasters

  2. Talk about disaster brings about disaster

  3. We cannot control our fate during disaster - it is up to God to decide who will live and die during a disaster

Our goal was to create a safe space for women to discuss their beliefs regarding these statements. These included inviting participants to put themselves in the shoes of those who might either agree or disagree with these statements. Proactive views about disaster therefore came from the community and were articulated in their terms, rather than forced upon the group by "experts".


A more extensive discussion of the debate and other ethnographic findings from the WeDpro-Curiosity partnership for disaster management can be found in the following draft for our book chapter:

CAJILIG ET AL_Text (1)
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Cajilig, P. G., Maranan, D. S., Francis, K. B., & Zaksaite, G. (2019). Sanay kami sa bagyo (we are used to storms): Unpacking “irrational” evacuation decision making within the sentient ecology during Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). In M. C. Alejandria & W. Smith (Eds.), Disaster archipelago: Locating vulnerability and resilience in the Philippines (pp. 89–118). Lexington Books.

Image 2. Architect Pia Maranan and Curiosity co-founder Oliver Salva conduct a series of participative demonstrations to show how certain architectural forms are more resilient to natural forces. Image credit: Pamela Cajilig.


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