IN spite of the coups that happened in Fiji, Sandra Fong has not given up on her country just yet.
In fact, she is going for further studies overseas specifically for this issue.
Sponsored by the Rotary Club of the Suva Peninsula, Sandra is going to do her Masters degree in conflict resolution at Bradford University in the United Kingdom.
So to speak, she is going to study peace-building, conflict resolution and inclusive and participatory democracy.
Sandra grew up through all the four coups in Fiji and it became a part of her life that she thinks she can help change or to say the least, make a difference.
There are still deep misunderstandings between different sections of a community and also between the government and the community, Sandra says.
The misunderstanding is created when both sides dont understand each other or at least see things from the others perspective.
This is the summation of all her experience as a civil society professional for the past 10 years or so, working with NGOs and doing internships with the International Fellowship of Reconciliation Womens Peacemakers Program, PeaceWomen Across the Globe and the Womens International League for Peace and Freedom.
I served these internships in the Netherlands, New York and Switzerland which were countries and organisations concerned with world peace and work towards peaceful solutions to conflicts in various countries as well as ensuring human rights.
It gave me a whole different perspective on the processes involved in conflict resolutions and peace-making at international level.
I thought about Fiji and the challenges it is facing concerning such conflicts, Sandra says.
Today, she is the co-ordinator for Dialogue Fiji, a peace-building organisation formed in 2009 by a group of civil society leaders, academics and senior civil servants after attending a United Nations-organised workshop on conflict resolution.
I was approached by some of the founding members who asked me to come on board as a consultant but then I stayed on and we established a secretariat and now we have four staff, Sandra says.
She really believes in her work and the determination set by the Dialogue Fiji founders to take an active role in resolving Fijis problems.
Sandra was still a political science student at the University of the South Pacific when the 2000 coup happened and somehow after volunteering with the Fiji Womens Rights Movement the following year, she stuck to working in the civil society sector.
In 2003, she joined the Peace Program of the Ecumenical Centre for Research, Education and Advocacy where she had the privilege of working for the 1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize Project which saw her travel around the Pacific region documenting the lives and challenges of women nominees.
It was here that got me thinking about the many challenges that people face, especially women leaders in their own communities and how they continued with their struggles and the causes they are championing, Sandra says.
In 2006, she joined the Partners in Community Development Fiji, an organisation that works with grassroots communities in villages and settlements helping with development projects.
I did a lot of travelling to the maritime islands but in the process I learnt how to understand the community and the many challenges they faced, especially after working with empowerment of women.
I have come to understand the need to have balance but certainly the involvement of women in key areas is something that should always be part of the community, Sandra says.
After working for all these NGOs and gaining valuable experience on community and policy level, advocating to human rights and peace-building, Sandra feels that its time to take all her experiences up another level.
I feel that I have gone as far as I can and have done as much as I can in this field of peace-building.
I feel that I need to upskill myself and be able to come back and offer something better for the country, Sandra says.
Her Rotary Club scholarship will pay for the duration of her course and at the end of her studies, rotary will pay for her practical work at a designated country.
The rotary scholarships are offered every year for those interested in pursuing a career in peace-building.