LAST fortnight I met with my high school classmates and it was an amazing night out spent with friends, as I had last seen some of them when I walked out the gates of school many, many moons ago.
For some of the others we may have passed each other in life but never got the chance to sit down and catch up.
As we sat down to enjoy the lovely spread and hospitality of one of our classmates, I reminisced on how we had all grown up and in our spheres of work and life, we all brought to the gathering our individual stories, our experiences and with such a diversity of characters, experiences and lives we had the opportunity to build on the shared experiences and to make something better of the various spheres of influence that we had whether it be family, society, village, church or neighbourhood.
As I looked through our class profile and at our membership, I noticed that our class had a lawyer, a judge, a pharmacist, a dentist, a businesswoman, a housewife, a village womens co-ordinator, a banker, a diplomats wife, and a church leader to name a few.
At the risk of sounding too self-absorbed I thought wow we did have a wide range of professional help available to choose from and we could easily have a consultancy agency or maybe even try our hand at politics if we wanted to.
But the beauty of our group was that each was trying to make an impact in whatever sphere of life they were in and to us as a class that made more sense than grand gestures to be part of national politics or grand gestures that did not contribute to our spheres of influence.
Our class objective was to start small and have a ripple effect in whatever we did whether it was to visit a classmate going through hardships, help our friends in need or just be there to hold a hand.
We resolved that as a class, it would be good to really hear and feel what our class mates were going through and help them in trying to make sense of their world.
We would then go out to relate or react to other bigger issues that were dictated to us by the schools old scholars board only after we as a class had discussed them thoroughly and with a mandate.
In retrospect, I now realised that our class resolution is typical of how we as women tackle issues.
We look at problems or challenges in a systematic fashion where we try and look at topical issues and find ways to resolve challenges, by discussing, analysing and finally resolving actions to take.
We also try and involve all women by having consultative meetings where we ensure that when we do speak it is with a mandate of the people that we represent and not just a few select elites.
Womens discussions are usually done in a very inclusive and representative manner and all are invited to participate.
Take for example the Womens Forum that have been held to discuss national issues in recent months.
The forum included women from all sectors of the community.
There were rural women from as far as Macuata, Ra, Cakaudrove, Lau and women from so-called marginalised groups and so-called dominant or majority groups.
Women from the legal fraternity were invited and a few attended.
The theme of the forums was inclusivity and it was a meeting of women leaders from around the country, from all sectors of the community as well as leaders of womens groups who had been mandated to speak on their members behalf.
The meeti ng was historical as it brought together women of diverse backgrounds and interests all in the hope of mapping a way forward for our nation in this challenging but exciting time in our national history.
The forum, like our class meeting, which systematically looked at the expectations on us as members of an alumni, analysed expectations on us as citizens, and tried to understand, analyse and then articulate what was seen as challenges, threats and ways to mitigate them.
The forum tried to look at issues that related to us personally both directly and indirectly and as these concerns were raised they were then codified into four thematic areas.
Issues such as civic education, human rights, peace and security as well as women in decision-making were discussed and for all women that attended, their community issues were succintly summarised in the outcomes document which basically highlighted the concerns of the women at the forum who were there as representatives of their community and were there with a mandate to speak on their behalf.
This meant that in addition to collective womens groups like Soqosoqo Vakamarama-iTaukei and National Council of Women Fiji, who were mandated to speak on behalf of their 300,000 members, there were other groups such as representatives of the National Youth Council, Disabled Peoples Association, Survivors Advocacy Network, Rainbow Womens Network, Rabi Womens Council, Rotuman Womens Council, Dialogue Fiji and rural-based groups from Vanua Levu, interiors of Viti Levu and the maritime areas.
The forum symbolised the systematic approach of women in addressing the issue of nation-building which stemmed from assessing the issues personal to us before moving on to addressing them and later finding solutions to them.
Having identified the issues, the women were then asked to collectively find solutions and mandate organisations to do their bidding.
The approach taken by the women at the forum reaffirmed the notion that women solved problems not by dictating decisions but more so on an analytical, collective and inclusive process to make it manageable.
This was reflected in the banding together of two advocacy groups, Fiji Womens Rights Movement and FemLink Pacific, with two umbrella organisations which were often poles apart in their philosophies and ideologies, but because of a common goal, had come together.
The experiences that I have had this week with my classmates and as a participant at the two womens forums in recent months made me realise that if Fiji is to move forward, our youths have to learn the art of dialoguing and also listening, being inclusive and truly democratic in their process of decision-making.
They have to be able to put aside personal differences and look at common national interests.
Fiji is at the crossroads of our nations history and I have never been so proud to be a Fijian and a woman as I realise that we have special skills and decision-making processes which could be taught to our children and childrens children to enable them to be better decision-makers.
If women in Fiji can step out of their comfort zones and rally together to move our nation forward with common, collective and inclusive mandates, I am sure that our youth and future generations can learn from this and move our nation forward .
As we ponder at the crossroads of our nations history, my prayer is that God will bless Fiji and its citizens and raise up leaders with vision and the collective mandate of their people to be involved in the nation-building process.
* Fay Volatabu is the general secretary for the National Council of Women Fiji. Email: email@example.com.