Feature

International Women’s Day 2021: Firefighter Breaks Gender Barrier to Prove Worth

“Waking up every day at 4.30am and getting ready for devotion and physical training, then doing a 24- hour shift was a learning ground for us and a sacrifice,” Ms Vugakoto said.
08 Mar 2021 11:15
International Women’s Day 2021: Firefighter Breaks Gender Barrier to Prove Worth
From left: Neli Vugatoko. Ema Rokosara and Sereniela Bola. Photo: Shreeya Verma

Working in a risky and male dominated environment was not an easy task for Serenieli Bola.

For her being a senior firefighter for eight years for the National Fire Authority (NFA) is all about breaking the gender barrier and proving that women can also make it.

The 34-year-old is from Sawakasa in Tailevu and is the first firefighter in her family.

“I had volunteered as a firefighter in 2012 and spent five years at the NFA Navua station, from there was on paid attachment at the Suva fire station,” Ms Bola said.

Ms Bola enjoys her job as a firefighter despite the challenges she faces at work.

The 2010 Diploma in Applied Computing graduate is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in Human Resource Management and International Relations at the Fiji National University (FNU).

“This is my final year in FNU and I am blessed to be given the opportunity to study and work at the same time,” she said.

She said her reason for joining NFA was because she feels that firefighting was not only meant for men.

“I used to tell myself that one day I will ride on the fire truck as a fire fighter and I am here now.”

She admits facing challenges working with male officers; when that she always took their criticisms on a positive note.

“I put myself into their shoes to understand work pressure and it worked well for me,” she said.

“If you want to pursue your dreams then you’ve got to face the challenges at work and in your personal life.”

Probation firefighters

Neli Vugakoto 

Neli Vugakoto, 20 and Ema Rokosara, 24 have been probation firefighters since 2019.

“Waking up every day at 4.30am and getting ready for devotion and physical training, then doing a 24- hour shift was a learning ground for us and a sacrifice,” Ms Vugakoto said.

Ms Vugakoto aims to become a nurse for the NFA firefighting team and she is keen on continuing her studies in Biology.

“In 2019, I joined FNU to do my foundation in Biology. I wanted to try something daring and exciting so I joined NFA as a firefighter,” she said.

Ema Rokosara

Meanwhile, life has been a struggle for Ms Rokosara as she was raised by her grandmother. Things paid off when she decided to follow her cousin who is also a firefighter.

“My cousin is currently based at the Valelevu station,” she said.

She said her journey as a female probation firefighter had been tough.

“Waking up early in the morning and praying for God’s strength and wisdom is my daily routine because you can achieve greater things when God is with you.”

She hopes to continue with her commercial studies soon.

“As it is International Women’s Day, I want to advice women to stay strong and do what your heart tells you to do.”

Feedback: shreeya.verma@fijisun.com.fj



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