Moana Kioa: "I realized I can add value and help as a woman"

4 October 2022
Women leaders

“What interests me most in the field of Disaster Risk Management is the intrinsic feeling of being able to help someone, and make a difference in their life,” says Moana. “Particularly in our communities in the outer islands.”

Moana and her colleagues at the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) in Tonga have established 160 village emergency management committees to help communities develop their emergency management plans including their response if there was a tsunami, an earthquake or a tropical cyclone.

With NGO partners, her team delivers a range of integrated programs every time they visit remote communities, with a focus on better preparation for future disasters. “They are in the coastal areas in the small outer islands,” she says. “We deliver awareness programs for schools and communities in general but we also prepare them for all kinds of disasters. Every visit is a chance to review the community’s emergency management plans.”

When she started, she was only the second female working for NEMO. “I realized I can add value and help as a woman,” Moana says.

“My dream was to do something to make a difference for women who suffer the impacts of disasters here in Tonga. Every day of my life in my job, I want to produce results and I want to help reduce suffering due to disaster impacts.”

“We’re looking forward to having more women because they get things done. They can advocate for women’s issues.” 

Moana continues to advocate for more women in disaster work, and her team has helped Tonga take the lead in prepositioning emergency relief supplies in disaster-proof warehousing, a job that had previously been handled by international relief organizations.

When she started working on this issue, Moana noticed that hygiene kits to support women’s menstrual hygiene did not contain anything specific to or adapted for Tongan communities. She and her team consulted advocates for women’s issues and customized the kits with items suitable for women and girls within their culture and the local context.

Moana says she is having on-going discussions with partners on how systems can support the needs of women if they are hit by a disaster. “Women are disadvantaged because they have to walk far to get water,” she says. “How can we support by installing water at the shelter or closer to their houses? How can we make it easy for women to access clean water for drinking in their normal lives? They should not have to put themselves or their children at risk just because they need water.”

She says disaster risk reduction action needs to engage with and learn from communities’ experience of disasters. “We host focus discussions with women’s groups in the communities and just listen to them telling their stories. Understanding the specific needs of women and children as well as the other vulnerable groups help us improve what we do.”

Moana Kioa is the Principal Assistant Secretary for Disaster Risk Management at the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) in Tonga.


Learn more

Implementation guide for local disaster risk reduction and resilience strategies




Moana Kioa is featured in Building a resilient Pacific 

a new publication from the Women’s International Network on Disaster Risk Reduction


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The Women's International Network on Disaster Risk Reduction (WIN DRR) is a professional network to support women working in disaster risk reduction, in all their diversity. WIN DRR promotes and supports women's leadership in disaster risk reduction across the Asia Pacific region, and aims to reduce the barriers faced by women and empower them to attain leadership and enhance their decision-making in disaster risk reduction. WIN DRR is supported by UNDRR and the Government of Australia.

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