Fiji’s unheralded frontline disaster responders: women

Leba Volau’s home collapsed during 2016’s Cyclone Winston. She remembers pushing her grandchildren out of the house as the walls caved in.

“We women used to stay in the kitchen”

The western side of Fiji’s largest island, Viti Levu, receives less rainfall than the east, leading to frequent water shortages during the drier months that follow the annual cyclone season. CREDIT: Copernicus Sentinel/ESA
Fane Boseiwaqa places posters on the wall before meeting with a group of rural women in Ba, Fiji.
Sarojani Gounder on why women need to be involved in disaster response and planning.
Selai Adi Maitoga on how women prepare their communities for disasters.

First responders

Jaimati Prasad says two rooms of her home were blown away during Cyclone Winston. She believes more attention would be paid to what women and children actually need if more women were involved in disaster response planning.
Urmila Kumar and her husband Uday Kumar say their sugarcane crops have dwindled after years of rain shortages in the growing season; their rain-fed tapwater routinely runs dry: “There’s no rain. How can we plant? How can we get our income here?”

“Can I survive?”

When food is scarce, rural women like Vani Tuvuki exchange ideas for preserving and preparing staple crops: “We share how to cook certain foods, changing it so that our children won’t know that we’re eating the same thing over and over again.”

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