The Women I Tok Tok Tugeta (WITTT) members in Uripiv Island, MALAMPA Province have recently completed the construction of a house for a disabled mother.

The community spirit and resilience initiative is part of a broader effort by ActionAid Vanuatu to empower Ni-Vanuatu women after the devastation caused by Tropical Cyclone (TC) Pam in 2015.

The Country Program Manager of ActionAid Vanuatu, Flora Vano, elaborated on the impact of this achievement.

“The house belongs to a woman living with a disability, and the able women who are part of the WITTT network in the community constructed it using local materials collected from the bush,” Vano said.

“The work was done by the mothers, showcasing their commitment and public spirit.”

The WITTT network, which now reaches over 5,000 women across five islands, has become an essential platform for mobilising gender-responsive and inclusive disaster preparedness and recovery efforts.

In 2019, the network expanded to include the WITTT Sunshine Chapter, specifically aimed at addressing the unique challenges faced by women with disabilities and enhancing their participation and leadership in humanitarian actions.

The house at Uripiv was built under the WITTT Sunshine initiative.

Over the next three years, ActionAid plans to scale up support for WITTT Sunshine, focusing on protection, service access, and gender-responsive disaster management, this effort is aimed at reinforcing the resilience and leadership of women with disabilities in Vanuatu.

“The mothers volunteer their time and labour without expecting monetary compensation,” Vano explained.

“They help out as a way of life, a tradition that the network has amplified.”

Vano also expressed concerns about the changing mentality towards volunteer work due to external influences and labour practices.

“The idea of working to help someone without expecting something in return is getting lost, the network is set up to help those who cannot help themselves, to uplift their spirits, and to provide a platform for school leavers and those feeling neglected by their communities,” she said.

In 2022, with support from the Australian Aid Programme, WITTT Sunshine established an economic hub. This hub provides a safe and accessible space for women with disabilities to organise, strategise, and develop their small businesses, further expanding their initiatives and developing their economic resilience.