SESALINA VAIANGINA — THIS IS MY STORY OF RESILIENCE

The temporary shelter the family now live in. Photo: TWCCC

NUKU’ALOFA – March 29: 10.55am (Nuku’alofa Times/TWCCC): I’m 45 years of age living in Makaunga with 10 children; 6 girls and 4 boys.

My husband died last year and it has been extremely difficult being a single parent.

Two of my older daughters have not been able to continue their education because they are helping me keep our family afloat.

I will never forget the night of the cyclone. It was one of the hardest moments I have ever witnessed. Earlier that day we heard the cyclone warnings on radio. I quickly got all the children together and told them that we needed to barricade the windows and parts of the house outside so that our house wouldn’t be damaged by the cyclone.

Every single part of our house had been built by my husbands’s hands, the children’s father. So for all of us, it was paramount that we took care of the house because for my children, especially my daughters, it was one of the last remaining memories of him that we could see and touch.

“THEY WERE TRYING TO SAVE THEIR FATHER’S HARD WORK…”

When the cyclone finally arrived we were all huddled in the house. The cyclone strength was getting stronger and stronger and the damages started from the kitchen. My daughters jumped up and were screaming and crying holding on to parts of the house; the doors, the walls, whatever they could reach.

One of the daughters working on tapa production. Photo: TWCCC

One of the daughters working on tapa production. Photo: TWCCC

I knew what they were trying to do. They were trying to save their father’s hard work. I screamed at them to get away from the walls and the kitchen because I feared for their safety but they all kept crying and calling out their father’s name. One of my daughters was hanging onto one of the beams of the roof trying to save it from getting damaged and I screamed at her over and over that we needed to evacuate.

I felt so helpless and painful. I too was in complete shock and disbelief, but I had to save my children despite how hard it was for me to see my husband’s work get ripped apart by the cyclone right in front of our eyes.

When the water started coming in really hard the walls just crumbled. We had to all run to their uncle’s house right at the back of our house We ran through flying debris, broken glasses and trees that had been uprooted.

The next morning we saw the complete devastation in front of us. The roof was completely destructed. All the doors and windows were completely damaged. The walls had collapsed because of the fallen roof. We all stood there in complete shock crying and holding onto each other.

We cleaned up the same day and removed what we could from the house that we could still salvage. We stayed at my children’s uncle’s house for about a week before I decided that we would all go the nearest evacuation centre, our church hall.

I DON’T HAVE TIME TO MOPE AROUND AND FEEL SORRY FOR MYSELF..”

I have 8 children who are still in high school and the youngest is 11 years old and is in form one. I currently work as a care giver for the Elderly and the Disability program coordinated by Ma’a Fafine mo Famili from Monday to Thursday. This is our main source of income. Our other source of income is tapa making. My two daughters who have left school help me make tapa for sale to help us financially. I don’t have time to mope around and feel sorry for myself – I have 10 children who depend on me.

NEMO distributed a tent and this is what we have put up as a temporary shelter at our home. My sons remain in the tent overnight while I return to the church hall with my daughters to sleep at night. Other people have been kind to us and have donated food and other supplies for example the Fetu’ungingila, the LDS church and also financial support from relatives overseas.

Our urgent need now is for our house to be fixed so that we can go back home because we cannot stay for long term in our church hall and we cannot fit in the one tent that we are using right now. Also, right now I am just trying to keep my daughters’ minds off the major damage to the house by keeping myself and all of them busy.

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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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