Break­ing Bar­ri­ers in a Man’s World

mailife - - Contents - By JOHN MITCHELL Pho­tos by MELA KATONIVUALIKU

When Te­malesi Bui of Wainibuka de­cided to get out of her com­fort zone she cer­tainly found her­self in a chal­leng­ing place – draped in over­alls, re­flec­tor jacket, knee-high boots and a Tele­com Fiji Limited cap, su­per­vis­ing con­trac­tors dig­ging me­tre deep road­side trenches for fi­bre op­tic cables. Bui, 22, likes the job be­cause it pushes her “to the lim­its”. She toils in the same swel­ter­ing heat and in­ter­mit­tent rain along the Kings Road as her male work­force on a labour-in­ten­sive project that is in­tended to im­prove Fiji’s telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions ca­pac­ity. “This is my fourth week on this stretch and I’ve liked ev­ery mo­ment of it. Next week I will go back to Suva while an­other team comes for their four-week ro­ta­tion,” Bui said. “When the op­por­tu­nity to work here came, my dad and mum en­cour­aged me and I ap­plied. I work in the IT sec­tion of TFL and thought this field job would give me prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence.” Bui is a former stu­dent of Suva Ad­ven­tist Col­lege in Lami who went on to study In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy Net­work­ing at Fiji Na­tional Univer­sity. She has been work­ing with TFL for about a year. “At first I felt a bit awk­ward be­ing with a male work­force, some of whom were much older than I am. But with time I over­came that chal­lenge and now I am used to them be­ing around me – and that’s be­cause they’ve helped me cope,” Bui said. “A great thing about be­ing in the com­pany of men is they joke a lot and like to have fun. When they know you are new

or young, they take good care of you just like their own daugh­ters. I also like the fact that they are powerful, do not gos­sip and work hard.” Bui said be­ing part of a project team re­quired hard work, as a big part of the job in­volved phys­i­cal labour such as pulling, lift­ing, dig­ging, drag­ging and so forth. Long hours in hot or wet con­di­tions had to be con­tended with. “We are up each day at six am. We have our devotion, have our shower, eat break­fast and then we are off to work for the whole day.” “Some­times we work late into the night af­ter 12 hours straight in the scorch­ing sun or pour­ing rain. Luck­ily I get a lot of help from my male col­leagues that makes the work bear­able. I get re­ally ex­hausted and af­ter work just can’t wait to sleep.” When days turn into weeks, Bui misses home and the com­pany of her mother and four brothers and sis­ters, but en­cour­age­ment of work­mates keeps her strong. Bui plans to go to the Univer­sity of the South Pa­cific shortly to fur­ther her stud­ies in IT. Her dad, who works as a TFL project team leader and mum, a civil ser­vant with the Min­istry of Finance, both want her to get a de­gree. “Mum en­cour­ages me a lot and she’s okay with me be­ing in a man’s world. Girls can do any­thing, all they need is sup­port. I would like to chal­lenge young women out there to never be afraid of en­ter­ing a man’s world. In any case, there was hardly any more ex­clu­sive ‘men’s world’ around, Bui said.

Bui takes a break from work.

Bui feels con­tent with long work­ing hours in hot or wet con­di­tions.

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