- UNITAR Division for Prosperity held a public webinar on women’s leadership for diversity and inclusion in disaster risk reduction, on 26 January 2022.
- Two UNITAR alumnae shared how they used their UNITAR training to help family and friends in the recent volcanic eruption and tsunami in the Kingdom of Tonga.
- The two had completed the 2021 round of Training Programme on Women Leadership and Tsunami-based Disaster Risk Reduction.
- Ambassador of the Kingdom of Tonga to Japan Dr. Tevita Suka Magisi expressed his gratitude to the support of the government and the people of Japan.
- Dr. Magisi praised the UNITAR programme for making a “significant and sustainable contribution” to help small Pacific island developing states.
11 February 2022, Hiroshima, Japan – Two UNITAR alumnae from Tonga reported on the aftermath of the eruption and tsunami that struck their country, at a UNITAR webinar held on 26 January 2022. Sandy Siutiti Tuipulotu and Simata-e-la'ā Palu, both currently based in Japan, were able to apply what they learned in the 2021 UNITAR disaster risk reduction (DRR) training programme to help their friends and family in the disaster.
On 14 January 2022, the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai erupted, triggering a tsunami warning for residents in Tonga. Upon hearing of the warnings, Sandy and Simata contacted their families on group chats to share tips on what to do, such as to cover water tanks, follow official evacuation instructions, and remain calm.
The next day, 15 January, Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai erupted again in what has been described as a “once-in-a-thousand-years” explosion, hundreds of times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The volcanic mushroom plume covered 80 per cent of Tonga’s land and a tsunami rising to 15 meters hit the west coast of Tongatapu Island.
Sandy was able to contact her family for a few minutes before the network cut off. It gave her peace of mind knowing they were already evacuated and safe. But after two or three days of no contact, the anxiety set in.
To ease their fear and anxiety, Sandy and Simata turned to action. They started sharing disaster risk reduction tips on their social media accounts – messages which were later picked up by foreign media – and helped Tongans abroad get in touch with their families through contacts in Tonga.
They also got in touch with another overseas Tongan DRR alumna, Lavinia Taumoepeau-Latu, to discuss relief and recovery. The connection supported them emotionally in a difficult time.
“I'm grateful that I did connect to Simata everyday and later on with Lavinia to discuss what we learned during the course and what we need to do now to help our families and friends in Tonga,” said Sandy. She credits the DRR course for helping her understand the whole scenario of disaster, from preparations to recovery.
It helped me also to provide assistance to my families and friends. And it gives me confidence during a devastating time in Tonga. - Sandy
In the webinar, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Tonga to Japan Dr. Tevita Suka Magisi expressed his gratitude to the support of the Government and the People of Japan. Dr. Magisi praised the UNITAR programme for making a “significant and sustainable contribution” to help small Pacific island developing states build womens’ leadership in disaster risk management and reduction.
Meaningful participation, engagement and leadership of women are all necessary to achieve the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction targets and the Sustainable Development Goals, affirmed Dr. Magisi.
Women, after all, comprise half the population of our planet and we cannot leave half of humanity behind. – Dr. Magisi
Now as the government of Tonga shifts to recovery and international relief has started coming in, Sandy and Simata concluded:
Tonga will be back stronger and better. Together we will see Tonga thrive once again.
The public webinar on women’s leadership for diversity and inclusion in disaster risk reduction (DRR) was held on 26 January 2022, hosted by UNITAR Division for Prosperity. It was part of the 2021 UNITAR DRR programme, which trained women from the Pacific small island developing states on leadership and disaster risk reduction. The programme was supported by the Government of Japan.
In the webinar, leading DRR practictioners discussed necessary and possible measures to promote inclusive and equitable disaster risk reduction that ensures no one is left behind. Panellists were: Ms. Maualaivao Namulauulu Tautala, Secretary General, Samoa Red Cross Society; Ms. Vasiti Soko, Director, Fiji National Disaster Management Office, Government of Fiji; and Ms. Emiko Nukui, Certified Disaster Prevention Officer, Welface and Disaster Prevention Community Association. More than 130 participants attended the online discussion.
Women Leadership for Diversity & Inclusion in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) - YouTube