Rewarding experience

Lavetanalagi stresses a point at an event. Pictire: Supplied.

Despite hurdles he faced in life Lavetanalagi Seru has persevered to become an advocate.

The Nanukuloa, Ra youth activist is passionate about climate change, human rights, gender equality and sexual and reproductive health among other social issues.

He is the co-founder and co-ordinator of the Alliance for Future Generations, a young people-led network on sustainable development.

A graduate from University of the South Pacific with a degree in Tourism and Hospitality Management, Seru’s journey through tertiary studies wasn’t as simple as many would have it. This was mainly because of the then Fijian Affairs Board (FAB) scholarship rule that only one person per family was eligible for a scholarship.

He had to make way for his twin brother to study under the FAB scholarship while he studied tourism and management under the Public Service Commission scholarship, an area he did not have keen interest in. Nevertheless, that did not deter him from progressing with his studies.

His curiosity in the NGO sector led him to volunteer for various organisations while studying. One of his first exposures was being part of a political campaign for Roshika Deo, an independent candidate who contested in the 2014 General Elections.

In 2015, Seru attended a lead up event to COP21. That was where he connected with other climate activists from around the country and in a way cemented his role in the civil society space.

He said helping the community was something that had always motivated and driven him in life, and volunteering for non-government organisations made him achieve his goals and passion.

The 30-year-old activist said his early experience as a volunteer came with its fair share of challenges.

He had to constantly request for mobile data, bus fares and other costs from the organisation to assist him with his job. At the same time, he also tried to earn some cash to assist his single mother in managing the household.

However, Seru said those challenges were nothing compared with the rewards he received from his days as a volunteer. He managed to build networks and contacts that opened up doors of opportunities.

Over the years, Seru has been a consultant with many local, regional and international organisations such as Amnesty International and the Australian Broadcasting Cooperation.

For Seru, it was initially a challenge working with organisations on climate change as he did not have a climate change educational background, but he took up online classes to familiarise himself with the work on climate change around the world.

He said one work that he was proud of was his involvement in the intersection of human rights and climate resilience and ensuring that the marginalised and vulnerable communities get access to resources that assist them in building community resilience.

Outside of the climate and human right activism another milestone achievement for him was organising Fiji’s first Pride march in 2018 which celebrated diversity among members of society.

“The work that I did back then with faith-based organisations in trying to build bridges among vulnerable groups and communities, including the LGBTQ+ society and sex workers,” he said.

“Building that space between the church and these groups to share their stories. These stories enable change, whether its change in behaviour or attitude. This is the work that I am really proud of.”

Seru said his experience in non-governmental organisation and civil society organisations and dealing with social issues during his interactions with youths was always a delight and he believes that the youth of this country remain its most untapped potential.

He said the ideas and the experience some of the table during workshops and meetings are valuable and insightful.

His advice to youths of the country is to explore other interests as one can always learn a lot from these experiences.

He added networking and making contacts presented many opportunities.

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