by Sian Rolls

“For leaders, you have to listen to everyone, open to everyone, take what they are, what do you call, take all the information they tell you, hear about it and those kind of… then it’s for you to make your decision (and decide) which one is better for everyone,” reflected Adi Mitimiti Pasikala. “You don’t have to take your own ideas and then you argue with lots of people - this is not a good leader. For me, leaders, if you are hardworking women, honest women, you (can) be a (role) model to everyone.”

The 25 year old Pasikala is a project officer with the Talitha Project that I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time at femLINKpacific’s 'Women, Peace and Security and the Humanitarian Agenda: Participation, Preparedness and Protection' regional consultation held last week.

The lively young woman a passionate and outgoing mobiliser who first heard about the work of the Talitha Project a number of years ago but only got involved actively last year.

Since her first workshop, she has taken up the position of project officer, egged on my wo’mentor Vanessa Heleta. 

“I am a peacebuilder in Tonga,” she beamed. “Last year… (I was) face to face with lots of young girls that face the same situation that I had (been).”

“I’m a single mum - teenage pregnancy and then getting married and divorced at 20. Having those kind of experience, give me (the willingness) to work (with especially) young women and girls as our target group of our NGO.”

The workshop was not just an opportunity to be identified by Heleta; it was eye-opening for the young Pasikala.

“I thought to myself, it’s only me but then did I find out that there’s lots (of teenage mothers,” she explained. “After that, Vanessa knows how capable I am.”

“I stand in front, I have confidence. Sharing my story about teenage pregnancy, I told everyone that was in the workshop. I don’t have to hide anything because what I think is I have to encourage them.”

Pasikala continued her journey with Talitha all the way to Fiji – her first work trip and first time in a regional space. For her, it was another step up to grow as a leader.

“All the things are happening for me, it’s an experience,” she outlined. “It gives me strength, empower me, to let the people, especially for our targeting group, (know that) they have a second chance.”

She continues to look for new challenges and has made a commitment to start tertiary studies to further her own development.

“I’m studying law - this is my first year,” she told me. “After my divorce, I made my decision - I think the decision for me to go back to school.”

“Now I have a second chance of going back to school.”

She also had found her learning enhanced through her work – hearing from women leaders across the region who paved the way for peace. While the regional space has been an empowering one, is does feel daunting at times.

But for Pasikala, no challenge is too large – she continues to push herself including speaking out with confidence despite English being a second language.

“This is the time for me to learn so I’ll just speak it up,” she smiled. “No matter what I do, I will speak it up.”

“This is not our language, our traditional one. This is a second language. It’s better to try your best rather than sit and silence your mouth and then but I keep on going, no matter how hard sometimes but I keep on going, never give up. One of my weakness is when I talk… but when it comes to implement something, when it’s time for evaluation, and trying to mobilising with the young girls, I’m good at it. I’m mobilising the young girls, coordinating and organising with the programmes in our organisation, this is make me a leader.”

Returning to work, Pasikala was exciting about upcoming activities of the Talitha Project and opportunities offered by media platforms like SMS messages.

At the end of the day, she is most looking forward to reconnecting with the young women in her network to ensure they are able to realise their full potential through investing in their empowerment.

“There’s lots of people trying to pull you back,” said Pasikala. “You don’t have to look at them. Go on - they don’t know what you’re doing. (Find your) potential… keep it up, don’t look back.”