Pasifika young women share stories and experiences in virtual talanoa

March 09, 2021

A virtual panel of young Pasifika female leaders provided an insight into the challenges they face and the motivations which help them overcome their struggles.

The Wave of the Moana talanoa was split into two panels - one for young students and one for young professionals.

The first panel involved those in high school and at university, who shared their stories and experiences as students.

Head Girl of Tamaki College, Taunese Leitufia, says learning has been challenging with the constant changing of Covid-19 alert levels.

But Leitufia says family has been her biggest support in finding balance.

“They understand what it’s like as a student to have a role at school and having to play that sibling role at home, so they just asked me to give them my schedule and so when I have any online calls, they’ll just ask me to go to my room and join the online calls with the teachers.”

Leitufia encourages fellow Pasifika female students to think of their “why”.

“Think of what motivates you or think of why you’re in school, why you want to go far in life and for me, that would be my family. We all value our families so much and we want the best for them, we want to help them in the future.”

As a sister, Leitufia says she has an important role in her family.

“You’re the person that helps them see things through different perspectives, the sister who has their backs, through challenges, through trials that they face or temptations, the sister who will always motivate them to do the best they can in life.”

Tamaki College’s Deputy Head Girl May Sinafea says she enjoys having her own space with no distractions, but understands the difficulties of working from home.

“It’s hard to learn from home because you don’t have a teacher right there with you to support you.”

Despite Sinafea being the youngest in her family, she says she’s always looking to help her siblings where she can.

“I just love motivating my siblings and inspiring them to never give up.”

The second panel involved a number of young professionals from a range of different backgrounds, who shared their experiences of study and work.

Natu Vaeluaga is studying for a Bachelor of Science in Biodiversity and Ecology and is also a mother.

Vaeluaga says juggling the roles is hard, but there’s a village to help you on your journey.

“When people are offering help out of love, you’ve got to just say ‘thank you’ and accept it.”

Brogan Maoate, a house officer at Tauranga Hospital, says it’s important to look after yourself and do things that you enjoy.

“As part of Pacific cultures, you’re looking after one another and you’re always thinking about your friends and your family and wanting to make sure that everyone’s included or everyone’s doing well in your family. 

“Do things that you like - whether it’s sport or going for a walk or go to the beach.”

Maoate is motivated when she sees inequities among Pasifika in the health sector.

“It’s difficult seeing that in real life in a hospital. That helps me and some of the other Pasifika colleagues strive to do what we do and realising that what we do in hospital is not a quick fix, but knowing there’s a bigger picture.”

Ateliana Taufa, who is studying dentistry in Otago, says moving away from her family in Auckland was one of the toughest decisions she had to make.

However, she doesn’t want to waste the sacrifices her grandparents made for her.

“My grandparents placed a lot of value into education so they’re children and grandchildren can obtain a good education.

“They left everything in Tonga and came here and worked in the factories, two to three jobs, so they were basically working hard so I don’t have to.”

Arizona Leger is a Human Rights Masters student and says her work is inspired by other young Pasifika women in their own space and seeing the progress that they’ve made.

“I really enjoy stepping back and actually looking at how our young people are going and looking at the progress that they are making on their own two feet and off the shoulders of their giants.”

Her goal is to ensure Pasifika women have a voice in order for society to move forward.

“If it’s only looking like trees are being planted for certain people, how can we ensure that we’re planting seeds for people who are constantly missed out of conversations, constantly silenced, constantly unheard.

“It’s because they need to be at the starting line as much as everybody else and they need to be in the race and right now, they’re not.

“The burden shouldn’t be on our shoulders as Pacific Oceanic women to remove the barriers in front of us. It’s actually on the shoulders of society to get up and come and help us move those barriers because they would actually realise in turn that they are the barrier."