Feature

A Woman In Power: Meet Roberta, Fiji Sugar Corporation’s First Female Power Systems Controller

Roberta was introduced to mechanical work as a child through her father who was a tradesman working out of the home to repair appliances brought to him from across their neighborhood.
22 Jan 2020 13:00
A Woman In Power: Meet Roberta, Fiji Sugar Corporation’s First Female Power Systems Controller
In control, Pauline Roberta Vosayara at the power console of the Fiji Sugar Corporation’s mill in Labasa where she controls the export of electrical energy produced at the FSC mill. Photo: Lice Movono

In the 125-year history of the Labasa Sugar mill, there has never been a woman managing power resources at the Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC).

At least until Pauline Roberta Vosayara, a 25-year-old mother of two who works in the electricals department of FSC in Labasa  came along.

Roberta, as she is better known, was appointed to the position of Power Systems Controller in 2019 and completed her first crushing season in the role a few months ago.

Fiji Sugar Corporation mills around the country generate their own power, using the refuse from sugar cane called bagasse.

The energy from the burning of bagasse powers the entire operations of the mill and excess electricity is sold to the Energy Fiji Limited (EFL) grid.

Roberta is the person behind the switch controlling how power goes where and when. It is a job that gives her direct access to the power which goes to the mill as well as to all households between Labasa to Seaqaqa.

The population of this area comprises most of the province of Macuata – some 65,983 people.

Background

Roberta was introduced to mechanical work as a child through her father who was a tradesman working out of the home to repair appliances brought to him from across their neighborhood.

“Whatever my father was working on – brush cutters, rice cookers – I would help him so my interest in electricals began early,” Roberta said.

“After high school, I saw an advertisement for the apprenticeship programme at the Fiji National University so I applied and got in,” Roberta said.

Roberta graduated from that electrical works programme in 2017 and caught the attention of FSC’s Labasa team leader of the electricals department, Roderick Simmons.

Roberta was encouraged to pursue another month of training in power systems controlling held at FSC’s Labasa Mill.

“When I first completed my apprenticeship and was told to go for systems controller training, I didn’t really believe that I would succeed,” Roberta said.

“It was a male-dominated field and it was the first time for a female to do this kind of work, so I was nervous.

“As my training went on, I felt more confident and started believing in myself.”

Roberta said the support from her supervisor and that of her husband, Eddie Thaggard, who works in the same department, was essential along with her own mindset.

“I thought it would be hard physically and intellectually but as I went further into the course it became better,” she said.

“From the beginning, I knew I had to work harder and focus more.

“My boss was very supportive and my husband encouraged me all the way. He works on the other generator close to where I work!” Roberta said with a smile.

Roberta’s advice to other women is like other successful women in a male-dominated world: “Pursue the work if that’s what you want!”.

While Roberta asserts that the men around her didn’t make work or training difficult, their instinctive mindset that a woman needed extra support was clear.

“At times men assume a woman is weak and needs extra help,” Roberta said.

“But I challenged myself and just kept thinking that if a man could do it, so could I.

“You can do anything but at the same time, it’s ok to ask for help.”

Feedbackmaraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj

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