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HERE COME THE YOUNG

May 25
10:20 2013

Behind Roshika Deo’s call for peaceful protest

Activist and youth leader ... Roshika Deo - Age: 32 Siblings: 1 sister, 3 brothers Education: Veiuto Primary School, Suva Grammar School, studied law at the University of the South Pacific Current Employment: Fiji Women’s Rights Movement Previous: G.P Lala and Associates as legal associate for five years Social Work: Involved with the Rotaract Club of Suva 2005-2011, Member of Capital Toastmasters club, Paul Harris award of Rotary Club, Newmarket in New Zealand

Activist and youth leader ... Roshika Deo - Age: 32 Siblings: 1 sister, 3 brothers Education: Veiuto Primary School, Suva Grammar School, studied law at the University of the South Pacific Current Employment: Fiji Women’s Rights Movement Previous: G.P Lala and Associates as legal associate for five years Social Work: Involved with the Rotary Club of Suva 2005-2011, Member of Capital Toastmasters club, Paul Harris award of Rotary Club, Newmarket in New Zealand

By ROSI DOVIVERATA

She’s an aspiring politician with long-term ambitions.
Meet 32-year-old Roshika Deo, a human rights activist, youth leader, community worker and a lover of humanity.
She’s also one of what is expected to be a new wave of younger political aspirants emerging leading towards to the September 2014 elections.
Earlier this month Ms Deo was shortlisted in the Amnesty International New Zealand’s 2013 Human Rights Defender Award.
Her name popped up alongside Theva Rajan, a Tamil human rights advocate, Susan St John, a founding member of the Child Poverty Action Group, and Aussie Malcolm, president of the Refugee Council of New Zealand.
At the recent United Front for a Democratic Fiji group meeting at Nasinu, Ms Deo called for a mass peaceful protest condemning the Government’s 2013 draft constitution.
She is focused on effecting change today, for the future generations. While some young people are talking about leaving for greener pastures abroad, Ms Deo has her feet firmly planted here.
“Fiji is my home, Fiji is where I belong – whatever happens,” she says. “The younger generation can make a difference now rather than waiting for later, because we are leaders now.
“I remember when I was younger, I told my Dad, I want to be the Prime Minister of Fiji – but he said, you can’t do that, you have to be a doctor, or a lawyer.
“But now when I think about it, anything is possible.”

FATHER
Her father is Indra Deo. He was an advisory councillor, businessman and former politician with the National Alliance Party. He now lives in Australia.
The ex-Suva Grammar School student admits that her childhood had its challenges.
“My parents were quite strict, we never went to a single social at school. It’s because it was from their experiences and their cultural perceptions,” she said.
“While they supported getting a good quality education, they also held traditional views when it came to things like marriage.”
Her father, however, left a huge impression in the course she is taking today.
“Because my father was a businessman, I was always involved in his business, helping out in the supermarket, wholesale, factory – so in a way I was first involved in politics from a corporate angle.
“A lot of the policies that the Government had at that time affected the business, that’s how I became aware of a few things.
“At that time I didn’t say it was politics, I just said it was all business but now that I’m experiencing it directly, I realise that everything is political.”
Mr Deo also took her daughter to the squatter settlements, the HART in Nasinu and Narere and it was an eye-opener for the young lass.
“Today I see politics as something very personal, it affects every aspect of my life – where I live, when I’m on the streets, in the supermarket, every single day we are involved in a political act. Getting into a public service vehicle is a political act because that vehicle is operating under a certain policy.”

LEARNING iTAUKEI

Learning the iTaukei language is a step Ms Deo is taking to help her better understand the iTaukei culture.
“One of the shortfalls of our country is that we don’t know each others’ language. It should have been done from the beginning and I think that’s one of the reasons we have a lot of conflict,” she said.
“I think that language is such that it helps to bring people closer, you’re able to understand then you’re able to relate to each other
“One of the reasons a lot of us have institutionalised racism and we have a racist upbringing, whether you’re iTaukei or Indo-Fijian is because of the barrier that we form between the two ethnic groups, based on culture, language and religion.
“Those in positions of leadership should take steps to change their behaviour and I’m doing that.”
Her parents divorced. Ms Deo is thankful for the support she gets now from her younger siblings.
“My brothers are really supportive, my youngest brother is like my best friend.”

FINAL THOUGHTS

So what are some things she will bring with her in her quest in politics?
“A feminist way of thinking, a youthful perspective and a different way of looking at things,” she said.
“I also believe in consultative approaches instead of adversarial-like approaches, we have to create a culture of independent individuals.
“In an authoritative government it’s also difficult to be able to be independent, assertive, free-thinking individuals but it is so important to do that.”

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