Fiji’s Girl­Boss Rev­o­lu­tion

mailife - - People - By PRIYA SINGH

The no­tion of fem­i­nism and the rise of ‘Gir­lBosses” is in­creas­ingly talked about on the in­ter­na­tional stage. While com­mu­ni­ties such as Sil­i­con Val­ley con­sciously grow their pool of young fe­male lead­ers and in­no­va­tors in the name of gen­der equal­ity, com­mu­ni­ties like Fiji have ex­pe­ri­enced a more or­ganic growth in the name of strong Pa­cific women step­ping out to take their place in so­ci­ety. I con­nected with three young women do­ing ex­actly that — em­brac­ing their Girl­Boss gene and tak­ing the leap of faith to cre­ate, lead and boldly shape a fu­ture where girls in Fiji can see strong role mod­els ahead of them who have paved a path to suc­cess.

GIRL­BOSS: ATECA RAVUVU, DI­REC­TOR OF MOANA LOA PER­FORM­ING ARTS CEN­TER If we read the back cover of your bi­og­ra­phy one day, what would it say?

Ravuvu was born on 17 Au­gust 1983 to Jos­ese Ravuvu and Ase­naca Masi. She is the sec­ond of four – As­esela, Ateca, Amerita and Kelepi Ravuvu. They grew up in Colo I Suva sur­rounded by na­ture so it was only nat­u­ral that she spent most of her alone-time day­dream­ing. She found her­self mes­merised by the arts at a very young age and be­ing a nat­u­ral dreamer, saw her­self on stage us­ing the gift she knew she was born with to bring pow­er­ful mes­sages to those who would one day be her au­di­ence. Ravuvu is also a rebel of sorts in that she has her own ideas of what an ideal world should be. She strives to bring peace to and among in­di­vid­u­als. She loves be­ing a me­di­a­tor for the trou­bled. Ravuvu’s child­hood was not one that she likes to re­visit but in her life jour­ney, she has learnt to ac­cept her past as the big­gest con­trib­u­tor to her life as an artist and a per­former. To­day she is seen to be one of the few per­form­ing artists who have risen through the ashes of doubt, strug­gle and de­fi­ance to touch the dreams she once con­cocted dur­ing her

child­hood days – to be­come a full time per­form­ing artist, to em­power and to in­spire and to share her ex­pe­ri­ences with those who dream the same dreams by open­ing a Per­form­ing Arts School. Ravuvu, now mar­ried to Herve Dam­lamian with two chil­dren – Kael and Ayla – has re­turned to univer­sity af­ter a few years break to com­plete her stud­ies in Psy­chol­ogy. She also as­pires to meld Psy­chol­ogy with the Per­form­ing Arts to help those in need of heal­ing from in­ner con­flicts and psy­cho­log­i­cal trauma. She knows only too well the power of the per­form­ing arts in the heal­ing of a trou­bled soul.

What has been your proud­est mo­ment of im­pact through the or­gan­i­sa­tion so far?

I would say that my proud­est mo­ment to date it would be Moana Loa’s cur­rent con­sul­tancy work with Fiji Women’s Rights Move­ment. While it is an in­tro­duc­tion for Moana Loa to use per­form­ing arts as a form of ther­apy, my col­leagues and I an­tic­i­pate a suc­cess­ful the­atri­cal pro­duc­tion in which the par­tic­i­pants as young as 9-12 years will be able to show their hid­den tal­ents and abil­i­ties as per­for­mance artists. They are not trained ac­tors, singers or dancers but their artis­tic, so­cial and cog­ni­tive de­vel­op­ment through­out th­ese past months has been in­cred­i­ble. It makes me ex­tremely happy and proud to be a part of their growth.

What has been the big­gest chal­lenge you’ve faced in your jour­ney so far?

Set­ting up busi­ness and money — money, money, money, money. I never liked the say­ing that money makes the world go round but the big­gest chal­lenge has to be fi­nance. In all hon­esty, my part­ner Glenville and I dived into this dream of ours, nei­ther of us had the fi­nances to launch it as well as we would have loved. We had the pas­sion but not the fi­nances. My for­tune in all this lay in my hus­band and mother be­ing so sup­port­ive and help­ing in ev­ery way they could. It also helps that Glenville is an amaz­ing artist who has not given up de­spite the chal­lenges. Also the USP Ocea­nia Cen­tre for Arts Cul­ture and Pa­cific Stud­ies, Samadhi Hawaii and Bold Al­liance have do­nated space, time and guid­ance.

Where does your Girl­Boss gene come from?

My Girl­Boss gene comes from my mother and her mother and my fa­ther’s mother. They were all women of strength in their own ways. I have been blessed with genes to push my bound­aries, hold onto my be­liefs and put my foot down when ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary. I find this in all women in my fam­ily.

Is there a fe­male leader/peer/col­league/men­tor that in­spires the work you do?

My mother in­spires me to not bow down to set­backs. She is a wo­man of de­ter­mi­na­tion, over­com­ing many chal­lenges in her time but never giv­ing up on her­self. She con­tin­ued her ed­u­ca­tion and through the hard years and is now a wo­man of lead­er­ship. When­ever I feel a set­back I tell my­self, if my mother can do it then why not me.

What ad­vice would you give to young women in the Pa­cific?

We all have some sort of story that has brought us down, made us doubt our­selves, made us lose touch, hope, and self re­spect and feel help­less. I know that the trou­ble will pass, be­cause I lived in a world of dark­ness some time ago and have only re­cently come out of it. It is not an easy or overnight thing to do. But no mat­ter how long it takes, stay strong and stay grounded in your be­lief that a new day will come. Never give up on your­self — ever. Know that life is not all sun­shine and rain­bows and there will be storms and trou­bles. Most im­por­tantly, know that it is pos­si­ble to draw strength from your past ex­pe­ri­ence how­ever trou­ble­some they may be. Know that you are stronger than you think and that the rain­bow is al­ways within your reach.

If you could travel back to seven years from to­day, what ad­vice would you give to your­self?

Take it slow. Breathe. Let go. Live.

GIRL­BOSS: EVLYN MANI, OR­GAN­ISER OF TEDXSUVA 2017 If we read the back cover of your bi­og­ra­phy one day, what would it say?

Evlyn Mani, an or­di­nary yet su­per­nova of a wo­man, slay­ing life! My jour­ney has been noth­ing short of amaz­ing, from be­ing able to meet peo­ple from all walks of life, to travel the re­gion through my work and con­trib­ute to­wards grow­ing aware­ness on the im­por­tance and se­ri­ous­ness of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and me­dia and how it can make an im­pact in the Pa­cific if used cor­rectly. I am also a cool yet chaotic wife to Ka­mal Chetty, a man who has en­cour­aged, be­lieved and stood by me. This in­cludes not chang­ing my sur­name to his, be­cause my iden­tity is proudly my own.

What has been your proud­est mo­ment of im­pact through the or­gan­i­sa­tion so far?

I think the proud­est mo­ment I’ve had in the or­gan­i­sa­tion would be the ap­pre­ci­a­tion, feed­back and pos­i­tive re­views re­ceived af­ter an event. The first im­pact I re­call would be Jope Tarai’s talk on Re­think­ing the Fi­jian man. It sparked so much dis­cus­sion and got many peo­ple ques­tion­ing and talk­ing. I felt this re­flected greatly on how we in the Pa­cific rarely ques­tion and talk about is­sues. Hav­ing it open up so many dis­cus­sions was great. Our timely theme this year was Oceans of Idea that con­trib­uted as a build up to the UN oceans con­fer­ence in New York. Some of our 2017 TEDxSuva speak­ers were part of this con­fer­ence. I am glad that through the TEDxSuva plat­form our au­di­ence was pro­vided with an in­sight into their work to give greater un­der­stand­ing of how im­por­tant it is to sus­tain our oceans.

What has been the big­gest chal­lenge you’ve faced in your jour­ney so far?

I think a chal­lenge is to find bal­ance. Hav­ing a full time job and vol­un­teer­ing can prove dif­fi­cult. But I am ex­tremely grate­ful to the sup­port, guid­ance and con­fi­dence re­ceived from the TEDxSuva fam­ily. It has been en­cour­ag­ing to work along­side such amaz­ing and skilled in­di­vid­u­als who have your back at all times. This chal­lenge of bal­ance has made me a much more or­gan­ised per­son with time man­age­ment and hard work.

Where does your Girl­Boss gene come from?

My Girl­Boss gene would def­i­nitely have to be from my par­ents. My mother has al­ways been strong, con­fi­dent and out­spo­ken and taught me and my two sis­ters how to be con­fi­dent, strong, and in­de­pen­dent. My dad al­ways re­minded me that what­ever you do in life or what­ever de­ci­sion you make, think hard and long about it and al­ways be hum­ble no mat­ter what the sit­u­a­tion.

Is there a fe­male leader/peer/col­league/men­tor that in­spires the work you do?

There are two peo­ple who have in­spired me tremen­dously. I started my ca­reer with the Con­sumer Coun­cil of Fiji and be­lieve I learned from the best, Mrs Premila Ku­mar. My ca­reer path is shaped the way it is be­cause of the work ethics, value, in­tegrity, at­ten­tion to de­tail, pro­fes­sion­al­ism and ded­i­ca­tion with which Mrs Ku­mar leads the or­gan­i­sa­tion. Her lead­er­ship has truly been in­spir­ing and mo­ti­vat­ing. The other per­son is the ex­tremely tal­ented and hard­work­ing Lisa Kings­berry, some­one who is an ex­pert in the field of strate­gic com­mu­ni­ca­tion and me­dia. Lisa is a dear friend and a men­tor. When­ever I need ad­vice or an opin­ion, she is my go to per­son. She has en­cour­aged me to think out­side the box and I have also learnt a lot from her work­ing on projects to­gether.

What ad­vice would you give to young women in the Pa­cific?

That sky is not the limit! This is some­thing I al­ways tell my­self: never limit your­self to bound­aries, al­ways press ahead and be­lieve in your­self. If you do, great things can and will hap­pen.

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