Liliani Ngahe

Liliani Ngahe


I am 28 years old from Vaini. My mother passed way seven years ago and so I live with my 65 year old widowed father. I am the only child and ever since my mother passed away I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my father to live on his own. People tell me to get married but I tell them to stay out of my business. My father is my first priority right now.

We heard the cyclone warning on the radio. My father and I talked about it and knew that it could potentially be a devastating cyclone. It was suggested that we move temporarily to his sister’s house, but we agreed in the end that he would go there and I would go to my mother’s sisters house here in Vaini.

The night of the cyclone, I couldn’t sit still. Every time the cyclone picked up and was getting stronger I kept thinking about my father and wandering if he was okay. But at the same time I knew he would be alright because he was with his sister. I remember thinking at one time that I should have just gone with him so that at least we were together. Even though I was with my aunties and my cousins in their house, I still felt scared at times because I never experienced such a massive cyclone.

I remember being so tired by the time the cyclone calmed down. We had been up all throughout the night putting things around the house to stop the water from getting inside. Just having to stay alert throughout the night and into the early hours of the morning and being scared at the same was very tiring. I remember when we heard on the radio that the cyclone was moving away we all felt so relieved and managed to get a couple of hours sleep.

When I got there, reality hit me right in the heart, our house was smashed to the ground.

My father called me straight away when the cyclone had calmed down to check on me. He told me to stay put in the house with my aunty and told me not to go back to our house because it would be too dangerous. He told me to stay with my aunty until he came back and assessed our home and then he would come and get me.

After the phone call with my father, I couldn’t just sit in my aunty’s house. My mind was wandering all the time about the damage made to our little home. So I decided to walk over to our house because I wanted to see for myself how much had been destroyed.

When I got there, reality hit me right in the heart, our house was smashed to the ground. Everything was wet and some of our belongings were lost.

I start cleaning up right away. I didn’t even walk back to my aunty’s house. I just started clearing up the road and the footpath to our house; the fallen trees, branches and coconuts were all blocking our footpath.

I put away stuff that was in still good condition to one side. I collected aluminium and timber on the road and footpath put it away for later use. I also pulled out big pieces of furniture like my bed and other things and put it to the side. But I needed some kind of shelter to put our things under.

I decided to put up a little temporary aluminium-shelter. I put up four coconut poles and nailed it onto of a few pieces of timber and then I banged on some aluminium as roofing - this was from all the stuff I put away while clearing.

I then put all our stuff I managed to save, including my bed, under the aluminium-shelter. I then finished off my work that day by clearing the rest of the rubbish and debris from my neighbours. I walked back to my aunty’s house satisfied that I had done some work to lessen the work that my father would have to do.

For one whole week I spent every day at home fixing our house and slept the night at my aunt’s house. One night though I fell asleep in the tin shelter because I was just just too tired to walk home. Remember the shelter had no walls at that time, but it was one of the best sleeps I had because I was sleeping at home.

I started trying to put up our house again. I knew that one of my neighbours were selling timber, so I went and asked them how much 40 pieces of 42 inch timber would be. He offered it to me for 200 pa’anga. I was so happy, I called my father straight away and told him about the 40 pieces of timber at $200. He was shocked and asked me what it was for and why was I wanting the timber. I just laughed and told him, “dad just say yes we can pay for it, because the timber is cheap, we will need it to fix our house” What my father didn’t realise at the time was that I was already in the middle of rebuilding.

Right after my father said yes, I went straight back to the timber owner and told him we would take his offer and that my father would get the money to him later. He told me that I could take the timber with me if I wanted to. Remember, I am talking about 40 pieces of wood. I was determined to take it at that time so I started walking back and forth with the wood to my house.

My dad was so surprised when he finally came back to see our house was up again.

I collected the broken coconut trees and cut it into pieces for the foundation. I cut it with a chainsaw.

I worked all day trying to put up our little house. I also received some help from some of the members of the Seventh Adventist Church here in Vaini. They helped me finish it. But I did all the foundation and part of the wall by myself.

I had also asked one of my neighbours who owns a generator if I could use their generator to help me cut the aluminium, because we still didn’t have electricity and that was why my father was still with his sister.

My dad was so surprised when he finally came back to see our house was up again. The smile on his face and the tears in his eyes was all I could have asked for.

Work is done and completed from the heart not because of being a boy or a girl.

One of the things that I was really thankful for was that I was still able to save and renovate most of our bathroom which was my mum’s hard work when she was still alive. She was a member of a women’s development group and they had worked towards getting funds to build bathrooms for families who did not have proper bathroom facilities.

She also planted a hiapo tree for the purposes of making tapa. Right after she completed those two projects for our family, she passed away.

Now, whenever I need money or we are financially struggling, I just cut down the hiapo and sell it to women’s groups who make tapa. I know my mum did it for me.

People look at me and think because I am a girl or a daughter I will not be able to help my father but that is not true. Work is done and completed from the heart not because of being a boy or a girl.

Everything is back to normal now. What we really need now is clean drinking water because we don’t own a water tank. That was going to be one of my mum’s next project for our family. Food, beddings, and clothes would also help because most of our things especially our beddings were all destroyed by the cyclone.

My dad has returned to his job. He works as a security and does both day and night shifts.

I have thought about what it would be like if I were to leave home. But then I think about my father and how I don’t want him to be lonely especially because my mother has passed away. If I had siblings it would be a different story. For now, we are absolutely fine!


Note: 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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