Monday, April 7, 2008


Ana Tuiwai is defying the odds by becoming a certified diver. The 27-year-old was born and bred in Lomati, Kabara, in Lau.
Third in a family of four children, Ana had wanted to become a deaconess.
Her parents Filimone Tuiwai and Joana Vakaturituiwai were farmers who worked hard to give their children an education.
For Ana, doing household chores and fishing every Saturday was the life. She never thought she would do something like scuba diving. Ana said unlike urban areas, money, or the lack of it, was hardly ever a problem in the village.
She said the village was full of life and providing food for the family never a problem.
"In the village, only the boys did diving. I used to help my mother out with chores," she admits.
"I even used to weave mats and help cook. I remember every Saturday I used to go fishing and I really enjoyed it.
"In the city if you don't have money, you can't buy food but in the village if there is no money, food is readily available either from the sea or from our plantations.
"I never thought of diving professionally because only the boys did that. For us girls, we were supposed to do normal things that girls did. I was a very spiritual person and I wanted to become a deaconess."
She attended Kabara District School and came to Suva for her secondary education, attending Form Three at Suva Sangam High School.
In 1995, she left school and went back to the village.
"I left school because I was not interested anymore. I stayed with my aunt when I was in Suva and went back to the village after Form Three. I feel life in the village is very easy.
"In 2004, Frances Areki from the World Wildlife Fund came to Kabara to do something on the vesi.
"That's when I first heard about WWF. The following year, Monifa Fiu from WWF came to the Kabara and wanted to me help with surveys on the reef and sea grass. She stayed with my family. So I agreed to help her.
"I learned a lot like the English names for different kinds of fish. I only knew the Fijian names. I learned how to do coral reef and seagrass surveys."
Later that year, she took part in a WWF-sponsored dive training at Dravuni, Kadavu.
She said her father was not too enthusiastic about it because he felt diving was too dangerous for her.
"Even my brother in England was not enthusiastic about it too. They told me diving was dangerous but I wanted to try it and I wanted to do something interesting. Later they supported me.
"The dive training at Dravuni was for a week and I was the only girl learning how to dive and conduct reef and seagrass surveys.
"After the training, I became a certified diver and I felt very happy because this was something done only by boys in the village.
"In 2006, I was the only WWF diver from Kabara. I later joined the Wildlife Conservation Society and worked on projects including dive training in Macuata, Kia and Macuata-i-wai."
Ana has become a WWF volunteer and helps in dive training for island youths.
She said she had always believed in her strengths and talents, something she will always be thankful for.
"I feel so proud and happy to be a dive volunteer with WWF because I have shown that not only men can dive.
"The diving skills I have learned are useful for finding employment in tourism.
"Whenever I am helping with a dive training session, I feel like one of them. The boys, I believe I had the eagerness and enthusiasm to succeed," she said.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online