*The following is an article I wrote for work highlighting the hardships that our members face*
The Kingdom of Tonga is a Pacific paradise. Gorgeous beaches, excellent diving and snorkeling, and friendly people define this tiny island nation. However beneath the picture perfect exterior is a weak economy, lack of career opportunities, divided government, high cost of living, and daily financial struggles. Tongan women in particular face many hardships in their daily lives. Providing food for their families, paying children’s school fees, finding reliable transportation, and caring for elderly family members are just a few of the challenges they face each and every day.
One of the greatest hardships Tongan women face is the high cost of living in Tonga. Tonga relies heavily on imports, which drives up the cost of consumer goods. This means that everything from diapers to shampoo is more expensive to purchase. The cost of electricity is also very high in Tonga. The country uses diesel generation to provide power. This results in high costs for Tongan consumers. Lastly, imported petrol is very expensive which makes transportation difficult to afford.
Another challenge is the lack of jobs in Tonga. With few resources to spark economic growth, the country has very little job creation. Even in industries with high potential, such as the tourism and hospitality industry, Tonga lags behind many other nations in the Pacific. Tongan women work hard running small business in order to provide income for their families. In addition to the time spent caring for their children and running the household, Tongan women dedicate many hours in a day to various businesses such as weaving, farming, running shops, sewing and baking.
Lastly, Tongan women face many hardships in their homes. Tongan families are usually very large. An average household has 6 members. Most families have many children and live with extended family members. There is a lot of pressure on women to take care of children and elderly relatives. It is hard for women to provide nutritious meals for so many people. It is also challenging to find adequate medical care, especially on the remote islands. Keeping a family healthy and happy is not an easy task.
Despite the idyllic images Tonga produces there are a variety of hardships. Poverty in Tonga is very real, and the women in Tonga experience it every day.