Aseri Natoma Tidrai
Member of Na i Soqosoqo Vakamarama iTaukei, Nakavu
Member of Women Defend Commons Network (WDC)
Article by Vika Kalokalo
Ni sa bula vinaka. My name is Aseri Natoma Tidrai. I’m from Navuso, maternal side here in Nakavu, married to the village of Nabukelevu ira in Kadavu. I have 1 son and 2 grandsons. My husband has retired from the civil service staying here with me. We used to go to his village in Nabukelevu to plant yaqona and came back but now here but since the rainy weather have been staying at home. Here in Nakavu village I am looking after the village here as a village nurse. It’s been 39 years of doing this work, and I loved doing it to help the sickly, those with amputations, elderly, women and children. I have an assistant but not really engaged. In this work we have to be active all the time. We have village visitations by health officials. Every month we have to give our report.
Since we have the rainy conditions I continue to do home visitations to check on the individual home waste areas and septic tanks because the children always play beside those affected areas. Most times the children are not being supervised and I have to inform the parents that they have to be indoors if unsupervised. Sometimes they catch dengue and typhoid. Also advising parents to boil drinking water to be safe. Sometimes the water turns yellow during flood times. I monitor this for my reports.
Most times I face hardships. The greatest challenges are that some NGOs donate medical supplies, equipment like blood testing, sugar level, and high blood pressure. When received we have to report it to our leaders and the Sister in charge, but in my village there is no dispensary for me to operate from. The Turaga ni koro once informed me that one NGO and UN group said that they will assist with a nursing station/ dispensary but when COVID19 came it was on hold. Until today there is no update from them. We have many cases of diabetes, 2 amputations, 1 woman with a swollen foot. I keep on visiting them and also the elderly. I do home visitations to take their sugar level and blood pressure. So for 39 years of service there is still no dispensary. This is difficult.
From 2020 we now receive a wage of $200 per month which also means that we have to give regular monthly reports. But we don’t give our monthly report and get the wage at the same time, it’s after 2-3 months that we receive our wage. This is difficult.
So I took up the work of the village nurse when I was 39 yrs old. At the same time I was involved in the SSVM. We learnt crochet, sewing, and screen printing. I also got married at that time. I was also involved in the SSVM in this village, Nadi district, Nadi zone and Ba provincial. I am a treasurer for the Nadi district, Nadi zone for the 5 tikina – Vaturu, Nadi, Sikituru, Nawaka and Rukuruku. We have to organise fundraising too – We will shortly be having a fundraising to gain $300 for our Nadi zone administration office.
All the time I ask the Lord to assist with the work that I do, making it easier. Also my husband helps me in this so that we are not late in the work. We received some seedlings as assistance by ADRA. We haven’t planted any vegetables yet due to the rainy weather. When we have dry weather then we do the planting. One of the challenges I face is not having a dispensary. Most times in the village meeting, when I propose something it is not heard or brought up in the meeting. Some village leaders support but majority doesn’t support this work because they also have daughters which they need to hear from to be empowered.
When SSVM meets, we also invite the young women, so that they can also be empowered in doing this work. Doing work like tye and dye and screen printing. When attending workshops I have also included young women to go with me to also learn so that when I’m no longer here, they can take over. I always do my medical work at home, sometimes the doctor visits us here to check the 5yr olds for injections and check ups. I think that the women in my community need more empowerment and to attend workshops because most are not aware of the importance of healthy living, being part of the village meeting and doing this work with the women’s groups. What inspired me to want this work as community nurse was because I always saw my grandmother do this traditional care work with pregnant women. Back then we bathed them, cooked healthy foods and vegetables, and looked after the sick and elderly. In the 1960s and 1970s I was already doing this work. Now the total population of this village is 573 with a total of 107 households. We will also be profiling and mapping the whole village with the health inspectors soon, and I am looking forward to that so we can see the real needs.
My involvement with the DIVA Women Defend Commons (WDC) network has really changed how I carry out my responsibilities here in Nakavu. Not only as a village nurse but also when visiting women. I share what I have learned from the DIVA workshops with older women working more with younger women now, and I now do organic farming and 30 mins exercise for healthy living. My engagement with the WDC network also made me more vocal in the village meetings and in the women’s group meeting. This work has shown in the way that DIVA has hugely assisted the families here in Nakavu with food rations during the covid 19 lockdown, also now working with 2 young women of diverse sexual identities and expression. I have been prioritising COVID19 prevention by wearing the full PPE attire when distributing food packs showing how to prevent getting sick during lockdowns. Helping others while keeping ourselves safe too. The right food packs that were needed for each families were given by DIVA, and they were the first ever to be distributed in this village.
I would recommend to other village nurses the importance of having medical supplies and we need to be sure we get them. Usually we go to the health centre and give our list to the nurse and she gives our supplies. During and after Covid19 pandemic though, we have been lacking medical supplies. It’s important to have the supplies with us in the community where we work. It’s always late with supplies, most times we write up what we need, we go to the chemist, pay our own fare and pay for the supplies from our own pocket. Becoming a village nurse and practising healthy living is something that I learned so many years ago, and I carry it on until today.