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The family working on their temporary shelter. Photo: TWCCC

At the moment there are 18 of us staying together in our little tin makeshift shelter in Navutoka; 3 adults and 15 children. There is my husband and myself and 7 of our 9 children and then there is my sister and her 6 children and grandchildren who all came to stay with us after the cyclone. This is our story…

NUKU’ALOFA – March 31, 2018: 11.33am (Nuku’alofa Times): One of my daughters and her husband live in Folaha and they have a much sturdier house.

We knew we had to seek shelter there because we were getting messages that the cyclone was going to be one of the biggest cyclones to hit Tonga.

My husband and I knew that if what we were hearing was true that our house in Navutoka wasn’t going to make it through the cyclone.

We don’t have that much of an income and so our family home was built with whatever materials we could get. My husband goes fishing for both food for our family as well as to sell for some monetary income so we can buy other things that we need. Sometimes it’s a real struggle especially with 7 of our 9 children still depending on us.

On the night of the cyclone we were all packed into the one house in Folaha; my family and my daughter’s family and some of my son in law’s extended family. I remember everyone started panicking when we could hear how strong the cyclone was outside. The lights had gone out and so it made the children really scared. As adults we had to do our best to keep all the children calm.


Getting back up. Photo: TWCCC

Getting back up. Photo: TWCCC

I knew immediately that night while the cyclone was blowing fiercely that our house in Navutoka hadn’t survived the cyclone’s beating. All I kept thinking about was where are we going to live if we get back and everything is gone. I didn’t want us to be a burden to anyone. I started panicking about being homeless. I thought about my mother’s home in Nukunuku where my sister and her children were staying as an option but I wasn’t too sure if that house would survive too. Throughout the cyclone that night this was all I could think of.

When we returned to Navutoka our entire house was gone. Everything that was inside our house was wet. Everything we left behind was ruined.



While we were cleaning up my younger sister called me to check if we were back at Navutoka. She asked if she could also come and stay with us with her 6 children and grandchildren.

She had been living at my mother’s home in Nukunuku but like ours it had also been damaged. I think what my sister really needed was to be around family, around some type of support.

She knew my house was completely damaged but for her it was more about coming to stay with me during this difficult time and even though we had nothing I welcomed her straight away – I could not turn my sister away.

My sister makes kafa and her daughters help her sell the kafa. The money they make is a big help to us us with our everyday needs especially food and water and the needs of our children and their needs for school.

At the moment we really need food and water. We are starting to experience a shortage of food. Our girls are fetching drinking water from our nearby neighbours and from churches in our village.

My sister’s children have been cutting wood from broken trees to build a little separate shelter for them just beside us so that they can move there. Right now my sister and I and our girls are sleeping in the little makeshift house and the little shelter outside is where my husband and our boys sleep.

Our kids have been great despite the circumstances. They have all helped us in putting up a tarpaulin from NEMO as a temporary roof and they also helped rebuild a temporary bathroom and toilet just beside our house.

We are thankful for the food donations we have received to date. The Roman Catholic church and the Pentecostal church have given us rice, flour, sugar and crackers.

We are desperately in need of some building supplies to fix our house for the long term so that is safe for our children to live in. We desperately need drinking water because we do not have a water tank.


Note: This is a production of the Women and Childrens’ Crisis Centre.

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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