The women’s network leading crisis response in Vanuatu

Vanuatu is one of the most at-risk countries in the world for climate disasters, and for Ni Vanuatu women, the climate crisis will only deepen and intensify existing inequalities.


In a society where only one woman sits in the national parliament, and it is estimated that 60 per cent of women aged 15-49 have experienced physical or sexual violence, investing in women’s leadership in disaster responses is critical.

Since 2015, ActionAid has supported women in Vanuatu to establish and grow the Women I Tok Tok Tugeta (WITTT) Network – a women led movement that supports diverse women to prepare for and respond to disasters and claim their rights.

Now reaching over 9000 women across five islands, the WITTT Network has empowered women to take up their rightful place alongside men in community decision making spaces at the local, provincial, and national level.

“[WITTT] totally changed their [men’s] mentality. It drove away any doubts they have concerning what we were doing. They now come around to offer to help and support us,” says Betina Charlie, President of WITTT Malo.

A women-led response to an unprecedented climate disaster

 In March 2023, two powerful tropical cyclones devastated Vanuatu – affecting 80 per cent of the population. As the cyclones approached, the WITTT Network with support from ActionAid Vanuatu immediately mobilised.

WITTT members alerted 40 per cent of the population to the incoming cyclones using SMS via the Women Wetem Weta (Women’s Weather Watch) early warning and disaster response messaging system. This undoubtably saved lives, and enabled families to protect their homes, livestock, and crops.

In the aftermath, WITTT members from Malo, who had been spared from the worst impacts of the cyclones, used their resilience gardens to provide fresh food for more than 10,000 people on the worst affected islands.

“Women all over Malo came together and contributed local food crop to respond to the affected southern provinces. We did something that surprised a Tanna chief as well, because he did not believe in this network. They said we were wasting time, but when the ladies from Malo got to Tanna with the relief foods, they received the chief’s support and he said from now on they will work with ActionAid,” said Betina Charlie, WITTT Malo.

On Tanna – one of the worst affected islands – WITTT members were called upon to support the government response by the National Disaster Management Office. This would not have been possible without the years of training and awareness building on the effectiveness of women-led responses to disasters.

“Ni Vanuatu women are taking ownership of their emergency responses and tailoring it to what they know women need. In 2015, ActionAid showed solidarity and provided support. In 2020, after Cyclone Harold, the women themselves supported each other to rebuild their lives. In 2023, women were prepared, led the disaster assessment, and knew how best to respond,” said Flora Vano, Country Manager at ActionAid Vanuatu.

By investing in women’s leadership at scale through the WITTT Network, the Arise Fund has made a profound difference in the lives of women living in communities on the frontlines of humanitarian disasters and climate change.

To learn more about the Arise Fund, read the 2023 Impact Report.