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‘Amelia Ha’ungatau & ‘Ala Fataua —- THIS IS MY STORY OF RESILIENCE

‘Amelia Ha’ungatau and ‘Ala Fataua weaving mats as life continues for them after Gita. Photo: TWCCC

People say we are just three old people living together but if you ask me we probably do more work than people 40 years younger than us – that’s why we survived the cyclone because we’re unstoppable!

I’m 71 years of age living with my husband in Holonga and I also take care of my elderly maternal aunt ‘Ala Fataua who is 84 years of age and this is our story.

NUKU’ALOFA – March 29: 10.20am (Nuku’alofa Times/WCCC): The night of the cyclone is still very clear in my mind.

We live on our own and so we had to figure everything out before the cyclone hit.

My son who lives next door knows we are pretty on to it so he didn’t fuss that much because he knows we have a mind of our own and that we would take care of things as we usually do.

The house we were living in belongs to my husband’s uncle and we have been living there for many years taking care of it. The house my son lives in next door is our house.

‘Amelia Ha’ungatau and ‘Ala Fataua. Photo: TWCCC

‘Amelia Ha’ungatau and ‘Ala Fataua. Photo: TWCCC

My husband’s uncles house was very fragile and old and so my husband and I put up aluminum barricades all over the house to protect us from the cyclone. We also prepared food and drinking water, candles and batteries for our radio and then we sat it out and waited for the cyclone to come.

Boy, I tell you! When the cyclone finally hit my heart started to pump harder than usual. I don’t know how I can explain the experience I went through that night because it seems so unreal.

Anyway the power suddenly went out. We had our small lantern on and we could hear the flying aluminum and tree branches outside. I looked through the window and you wouldn’t believe what I saw, I saw our big breadfruit tree had been uprooted right out from the ground.

We could hear the aluminum roofing sheets flapping and banging and I started to panic because I knew something will happen to the house. All of the sudden the wind tore away the entire roof, and it was raining really heavily, and we were all wet and drenched we could see nothing, just the whirling cyclone.

My husband and I quickly glanced at each other and knew that we had to get out. We had to run to our house next door.

“I just turned around and picked up my aunty and carried her like a baby and ran”

We tried to leave through the back door but the uprooted trees was blocking the way. We started to panic and then my husband quickly diverted us and said that it was better for us to go out the front door. I just turned around and picked up my aunty and carried her like a baby and ran. I don’t know where I got the energy from but all I could think of was to protect her as best I could and so with all my might I charged out the door with her.

My husband lead our way with a torch, the wind was so strong and we could feel the flying debris hitting us especially the branches from the trees. I was so scared that a flying debris might hit us and we would get hurt or get killed but I just kept praying and having faith that we would make it.

Our house is on top of a hill-type slant and it was very difficult for us to make our way up. The wind was so strong so my husband turned around and took over carrying my aunt so that we could make it to the house faster, and thank God we made it there safely.

As soon as we got inside the house we had to change into dry clothes straight away because we were all wet. After about two hours the cyclone strength was starting to weaken. The next morning as we opened the door to walk out and assess how much damage was caused, we could see smashed houses and debris everywhere.

When we checked on my husband’s uncles house, everything was wet and ruined and the house was too damaged to for us to return to. The first thing that came to my mind was to check on my ducks and chickens and I was so happy to see they were all hiding under a shelter, safe and sound.

“I am thankful to have my aunt with me, she’s a very resilient and hard working woman”

We spent the first couple of weeks just working non-stop to clean up and dry out all our stuff that was still of good use and we dumped everything else in the rubbish.

My aunty and I went straight back to work. We both weave and we also make aveave and we sell this to generate income. My aunt and i also collect tuitui and then we prepare it by smashing it and mixing it together with other plants and then we put it in a plastic bag and take it to the market to sell or we go to workplaces around Tonga to sell it there.

We also grow and feed ducks and chickens and you know what? I always register my ducks and chickens at the annual agricultural show and every year I always win a prize. Sometimes when we are really desperate for funds, I take a duck and sell it to one of the local Chinese shops.

I am thankful to have my aunt with me, she’s a very resilient and hard working woman. Despite her age she is always ready to help me, and believe it or not, she’s the one who collects the coconuts to feed the ducks and the chickens, collects firewood from the bush and also collects the “tuitui” and helps me prepare it for sales. She is my best role model and I love her dearly.

Immediately after the cyclone, we received a tent from the NEMO distribution, also food donation, hygiene kits and dishes from Caritas. We also received financial support from our daughter in New Zealand.

During this recovery phase from the cyclone we really need clean and safe drinking water and water to cook our food with because we don’t own a water tank.


Note: This is a production of the Women and Children Crisis Centre of Tonga.

Raising RURAL WOMEN’S VOICES in Tonga post Cyclone Gita is a multimedia initiative that has been developed to coincide with CSW62. This is part of our bigger media campaign: ’This is My Story of Resilience’ which aims at raising the voices of women in various spaces.

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the key global intergovernmental body dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. The CSW promotes women’s rights, documents the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and shapes global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Each year, CSW organises discussions around key themes over a two-week period. This year, the 62nd CSW session has adopted the following themes:

  • CSW62 Priority Theme: Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls.
  • Review Theme: Participation in and access of women to the media, and information and communications technologies and their impact on and use as an instrument for the advancement and empowerment of women.

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