Careers

Gender, Age Never a Barrier For Humble Sokoilagi

“I had a spiritual upbringing from my grandparents and all their teachings taught me humility, respect and to serve others with a good heart.”
26 Jun 2019 18:01
Gender, Age Never a Barrier For Humble Sokoilagi
Republic of the Fiji Military Forces Naval Division midshipwoman Mereseini Sokoilagi.

Never let gender or age be a barrier in setting milestone achievements for yourself, your family and country.

These were the sentiments shared by the Republic of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces Naval Division midshipwoman Mereseini Sokoilagi.

The 24-year-old Naloto, Verata, Tailevu lass is the first female from the Fiji Navy to graduate from an Officer Training establishment internationally following her graduation from the Devonport Naval Base in Auckland, New Zealand on June 15, 2019.

Currently a Midshipwoman officer under training at the Republic of Fiji Navy, Sokoilagi says humility and having the heart of service for her country was the driving force in her latest achievements.

“I had a spiritual upbringing from my grandparents and all their teachings taught me humility, respect and to serve others with a good heart,” Ms Sokoilagi said

“These values have never departed from me and have helped me stay positive no matter how bad the situation,” she said

“I observed how they would always go out of their way to help those who came to ask anything from them, even though we were struggling ourselves.

“My parents taught me how things don’t come easy and that we have to work hard to get what we want instead of sitting and wishing for a genie.

“They worked hard in giving us the best education and even though we never had much we were able to get through together.”

Ms Sokoilagi said fond memories of her growing up include accompanying her grandparents for night fishing, collecting firewood, coconuts and going to the plantation to farm in the village.

Republic of the Fiji Military Forces Naval Division midshipwoman Mereseini Sokoilagi.

Republic of the Fiji Military Forces Naval Division midshipwoman Mereseini Sokoilagi.

DEVONPORT NAVAL BASE

The graduation on June 15 saw two Fijians from the Fiji Navy graduating, Midshipwoman Mereseini Sokoilagi and Midshipman Peni Koroitubuna.

Midshipman Koroitubuna was the parade commander for the pass-out and was awarded the Captain Welles trophy. Devonport Naval Base is the home of the Royal New Zealand Navy.

It is located on Auckland’s North Shore in the suburb of Devonport and hosts training and support services for ships and personnel of the Royal New Zealand Navy including engineering and training facilities, training and leadership, cultural facilities, sports recreation and social services.

Ms Sokoilagi said she had never thought she would be chosen for the study opportunity as she always felt there were others who were more capable, fitter and smarter.

“When I was informed about going to New Zealand to study, I was overwhelmed and excited for what laid ahead.At the base we learnt how to become a competent and capable junior officer,” she said.

“Instructors focused on our discipline, being a team player, developing our physical and mental fitness, we had classes on damage control training (fire fighting and flood training) sea survival training, defence communications, maritime strategy and parade training.  It was hard at first, because I barely knew the people I worked with, but eventually we all got close and the weeks just passed by quickly.

“So far, I have just completed my officer training in which I learnt more on leading self and leading teams. The next course will be specific to my trade and I hope that things I will learn will be applied practically into my line of work and according to the standard that New Zealand will instill in me.”

She acknowledged the support from her family and friends who contributed to her success while at the base.

“My mum and na levu (Mum’s older sister) have been through so much and have been that constant guidance that I can always rely on. I’ll get random advices from them at the right moments and I would always appreciate our pep talks.

“They have been such a great support group and always encouraging me. It gives me something to look forward to once training ends.

“I dedicate my latest achievement to my late maternal grandmother, Loata Rokotuva who had always wanted to see me graduate.”

Commander Fiji Navy, Captain Humphrey Tawake (right) and Master at Arms Warrant Officer Class One Sitiveni Jitoko (left) were in Auckland BRAVO Zulu to both officers graduation.

Commander Fiji Navy, Captain Humphrey Tawake (right) and Master at Arms Warrant Officer Class One Sitiveni Jitoko (left) were in Auckland BRAVO Zulu to both officers graduation.

EMPOWERING YOUTHS AND WOMEN

Ms Sokoilagi said her journey continues to build her character as she has learnt not to give up too easily but to dance in the rain.

“There were lots of ups and downs. After I graduated from FNU, finding a vacant position was difficult and it tested my patience.

“I was on the verge of giving up when my aunt showed me of the Fiji Navy recruitment advertisement. At first, I was hesitant but she encouraged me saying that nothing was impossible for a young girl to also flourish in a male dominated field. So, I took on the challenge.”

Ms Sokoilagi said the Fiji Navy has provided her with opportunities and rewarding experiences and she encourages other women to take up these roles in the male dominated sector.

“The journey has been a disciplining and self-discovering journey and some of the things we thought we were never physically capable of doing, we have pushed ourselves to achieve it.

“We need to challenge and constantly prove ourselves that we can also do the work that man do. Never give up. Do not let small barriers along the way hinder your crossing that finishing tape. Though you may not be the smartest, strongest or the fittest, always give your 101 per cent.”

Feedback: inoke.rabonu@fijisun.com.fj

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