Klima Kabisayaan: Ang Kababaihan ug ang Katubigan (Women and Water)

By Paula Bernasor


Walay tubig! This became my morning greeting back when I was living in Cebu City, my area which was right in the city center was highly affected by water scarcity. I remember having to use the old school poso or pitcher pump which gave out rusty water several times to use for shower and washing. I vividly remember how most of us in the neighborhood would be on the lookout for water rations due to an unreliable schedule. When the water tankers came, everyone would rush bringing their water containers as if Santa Claus was giving away gifts. Luckily for me, it was manageable as I lived alone and had small water consumption. I could only imagine how hard it would have been had I been a mother with children.

The water crisis is personal for women. Today, 771 million people—1 in 10—lack access to safe water while 1.7 billion people—1 in 4—lack access to a toilet. Women around the world spend a collective 200 million hours collecting water. In addition to time spent collecting water, millions may also spend significant amounts of time finding a place to go. This makes up an additional 266 million hours each day lost because they have no toilet at home.

Water supplies in parts of the Philippines are frequently scarce and, as a consequence, supplies are frequently shut down to preserve capacity. Six to eight months of the year are largely dry. During these months, acute water shortages occur, and people rely on drinking water sources that may not be safe.

Last March 17, Climate Reality Leaders from Western, Central, and Eastern Visayas shared their water stories, issues, and solutions during the Second Regional Hangout in Visayas. Through the exchange, we found out how we all shared the same issues of water scarcity, overfishing, deforestation, water pollution, and reliance on grey infrastructures. The Climate Reality Leaders also agreed that there need to be policy changes to reach water security. This includes requiring rainwater collection systems for new infrastructure, strict protection of watersheds and reservoirs, and regulation of plastic waste.

Water scarcity is the lack of sufficient available water resources to meet the demands of water usage within a region. It already affects every continent and almost 2.8 billion people around the world, at least one month out of every year. Water scarcity involves water stress, water shortage or deficits, and water crisis. While most of the Visayas are classified as low in water scarcity by ThinkHazard!, a simple flagging system to highlight the hazards present in a project area, Cebu’s classification is high which means that droughts are expected to occur every five (5) years, on an average.

While the concept of water stress is relatively new, it can be described as the difficulty of obtaining sources of fresh water for use during a period of time and may result in further depletion and deterioration of available water resources. Water shortages may be caused by climate change, such as altered weather patterns including droughts or floods, increased pollution, and increased human demand and overuse of water.

According to the United Nations Development Programme, economic water scarcity, a result of poor management of the sufficient available water resources, is found more often to be the cause of countries or regions experiencing water scarcity, as most countries or regions have enough water to meet household, industrial, agricultural, and environmental needs, but lack the means to provide it in an accessible manner.

Water connects every aspect of life. Access to safe water at home gives everyone, especially women hope, health, and opportunity.

In the Visayas, we have several women Climate Reality Leaders who are inspiring transformation within their communities. Their efforts range from mobilizing communities on water conservation, flood management, promoting and practicing water use efficiency, creating rainwater harvesting infrastructure, irrigation water management and improving agricultural productivity, restoration of groundwater, awareness building in clean drinking water, leading water user groups, and working towards sustainable development.

Evelyn Nacario Castro is the president of Ideas to Mobilize People to take Action in the Community Together or ImPACT and one of the prime movers of Cebu Uniting for Sustainable Water, a citizen initiative and a multi-sectoral movement for water resources and watershed protection.

Katreen Andrea Castillo is a farmer and community organizer primarily focused on biodiversity, agroecology, ecological economics, and intergenerational equity. She is co-managing Sarayo Forests, Inc., a women-led reforestation movement in Northern Samar.

Lisa Digdigan has over twenty years of experience working in the development world of biodiversity conservation, a Biologist from the University of the Philippines, and is a Fellow for Climate Change Action from Cornell University. She currently serves as a consultant for The Habitat Foundation, an international conservation education organization, where she developed a marine biodiversity conservation program in Sogod, Northern Cebu and Isla Mahaba in Cuatro Islas, Inopacan, Leyte.

Joramay Morales is the Project Development Officer I of the City Government of Ormoc River. She was previously the Technical Writer under the Conservation Development Section of DENR CENRO Ormoc, where she was highly involved in conservation activities that included clean-up within the Pagsangaan Watershed and other activities within the protected area of Lake Danao Natural Park where the Binahaan Watershed is located. She primarily implemented information, education, and communication campaigns on protecting the lake and its river systems and promoting the importance of conserving the remaining forest ecosystem.

Lady Ann Moreno Fabillar is a civil engineer, an Assistant Professor at Samar State University, and a member of the Philippine Institute of Environmental Planners. She has done several studies, including the assessment of flood hazards along the San Jorge channel of the Gandara river in Samar and research on coastal waste transport in Catbalogan City and nearby towns. She is currently working with a colleague in Samar State University in the Catbalogan Watershed Sustainable Management and Rehabilitation Program where her task is the conduct of the Antiao River Hydrodynamic Modeling and Flood Assessment.

They are just a few of our impressive women Climate Reality Leaders who are challenging the water crisis and are steadily addressing the issues with grit, courage, and determination. These pathbreaking works highlight that these women have not only secured their livelihoods and protected their communities through environmentally sound and sustainable practices, but have also helped to further empower other women, upscale their activities, and bolster economic opportunities for many.

Women are already the primary water decision-makers at the household level. And when women influence water management, their communities get measurably better outcomes—better-functioning water systems, expanded access, and economic and environmental benefits. As increasing water demand and climate change lead to higher rates of water scarcity and conflict, water management is becoming an increasingly urgent issue.

Given that women can be powerful water stewards, it stands to reason that women’s involvement in water management can also reduce water-related risks and conflicts.

Empowering women is critical to solving the water crisis. It is crucial to first understand the relationship between women and water. We need to acknowledge the existing inequalities, identify the barriers, and ascertain participation opportunities. Only then can we design women-inclusive programs and policies that will benefit water, ecosystems, and people.



Paula Bernasor is the Visayas Coordinator of The Climate Reality Project Philippines. She is a Climate Reality Philippines Leader and Mentor, Chapter Director for Startup Grind Cebu, and a volunteer for Project Sharklink and Thresher Shark Research and Conservation Project. She previously worked as an Associate for Partnerships for Rare Organisation’s Fish Forever in the Philippines. She started Project Library in the Philippines, a grassroots movement that helps underprivileged communities in remote areas gain access to books and reading materials, as well as Ocean Love Philippines, which uses social media to spread awareness on pressing environmental issues and to promote a sustainable lifestyle and the circular economy. 


Klima Kabisayaan is a space that aims to amplify the climate stories and initiatives of the more than 300 Pinoy Climate Reality Leaders in Visayas.

It is one of the monthly columns launched by The Climate Reality Project Philippines to elevate the climate discourse and strengthen climate action across all regions in the Philippines.