Sahai Bags Gold Medal Despite Losing Both Parents

‘Nobody was there to witness this achievement last week, I wish my parents were here’
17 May 2022 15:45
Sahai Bags Gold Medal Despite Losing Both Parents
FijiCare Insurance Limited sponsored most outstanding Master of Arts thesis winner Shirleen Sahai with group chief financial officer of FijiCare Insurance Limited, Victor Robert on May 16, 2022. Photo: Sheenal Charan

Losing her parents did not deter Shirleen Rohini Sahai from bagging another gold medal at the University of the South Pacific’s graduation ceremony last week.

In fact, it motivated her to work harder and complete her Master of Arts thesis in Sociology.

It is something her father had motivated her to achieve, however, just when Ms Sahai was working on completing her thesis to make her parents proud once again, they passed away.


This year’s gold medal makes it the fourth gold medal she has received from USP with her newest addition being for the most outstanding Master of Arts thesis, sponsored by FijiCare Insurance Limited.

In 2017, Ms Sahai had received three gold medals for the most outstanding Bachelor of Arts graduate but last week, she could only imagine her parents waving from the crowd.


“When I found out about the gold medal, it was a very emotional moment for me because I had lost my parents last year within eight months of each other,” she said.

“They were my greatest supporters, especially my father.”

“I was emotional because I knew how he would react.”

“In 2017, I was the recipient of three gold medals and my father was so proud.”

“He was emailing all his friends and I was getting emails from all different people that I did not know.”


She recalled the memories with her parents in 2017.

“Nobody was there to witness this achievement last week.”

“I wish my parents were here,” she said.

“My father was present in the last graduation ceremony and both parents attended a separate gold medal ceremony.”


Ms Sahai’s thesis is about perspectives and experiences of women in Tokou, a coastal village on the island of Ovalau, Fiji in relation to Tropical Cyclone Winston.

Ms Sahai’s paternal grandmother hails from Tokou.

“I looked at how women are the centre of the family, the village and the community and how they contributed to the recovery and resilience of the people in the village because that village had experienced three tidal surges.”


“It was like a Tsunami, an ocean.”

“The water had come into the village and how they actually helped in the recovery of their village.”

“What empowered the women was the kinship ties, their faith, it’s a catholic village and their urgency, their practical skills and knowledge that only women have in that situation.”


Ms Sahai said the geographical location did not dampen her spirits but rather kept her motivated to complete what she started.

Ms Sahai spent 3 weeks at the village completing her research for the thesis.

“They made me a bed using pallets and I had my own room, the rest of the family slept in the sitting room.”

“I was happy to stay in the village.”


“When my mum became sick, two women from the village came and sat by my mum when she was sick, the culture I had seen was just amazing.”

Ms Sahai’s message for those who wish to write their thesis was to follow their passion.

“Do something you are passionate about because one will spend possibly up to two years reading and writing, so you need to continuously be motivated.”


Ms Sahai used to work at the ANZ Bank for 24 years before pursuing her studies in sociology and psychology.

She advised people to get a formal education.

“I did not have any formal education so I decided to go and do a double degree in sociology and psychology at that time,” she said.


She dedicated her achievements to her parents Joel Sahai and Dolores Sahai.

Group chief financial officer of FijiCare Insurance Limited, Victor Robert said they would continue to support hardworking students.

“Because we know that investing in hard working people who will become leaders of tomorrow is investing in our future.

“FijiCare is always at the forefront of supporting education as part of its social corporate responsibility and this is the second year in a row it has sponsored USP’s Gold Medal Ceremony,” Mr Robert said.




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