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Always one to help

Solomoni Biumaiono
Thursday, November 29, 2012

As a young girl growing up in Hapmak Village on the beautiful island of Rotuma, Emily Erasito worked hard to ensure island youths had a voice and were active in village life.

A teenaged Erasito started working as a youth advocate volunteering to help with the Rotuma Youth Council in its various projects around the island.

"Whatever activities organised by the youths in our village as well as other villages I always offered my help and was part of the youth movement there until I came over to Suva in 2003," she says.

She was sent over as a 16-year-old to Fiji to finish off her education and has been actively involved in youth work apart from trying to finish her education.

Then in 2008 she was appointed by the Rotuma Youth Council to be their representative in Fiji and this set her on her way of becoming an official voice of youth advocacy in Fiji.

"I was surprised when I received a letter from the Youth Council co-ordinator explaining to me that I would represent the youths of the island here in Fiji in case none of the committee members could attend meetings in Suva.

"Later when we talked over the phone with the co-ordinator then I accepted the appointment and became part of the National Youth Advisory Board which is part of the Ministry of Youth," Erasito says.

As a Rotuma representative, Erasito explained youths on the island lack two things apart from the universal challenges faced by youths the world over.

"On our island there are two main things that need to be addressed and they are unemployment and low self-esteem," Erasito says.

She says the same can be said for Fiji where she has spent the last five years as a youth advocate and member of the National Youth Advisory Board.

"However the contexts are different but the definition of employment is definitely broader than the usual association with office work whereas planting crops to sell is a form of employment as it earns income too," Erasito says.

After gaining more experience in the National Youth Advisory Board Erasito decided to branch out and applied to UNESCO for funding through their Youth Vision Program.

She got the funding in 2009 and she used this to hold HIV/AIDS awareness workshops in all the villages on Rotuma, which is one outstanding achievement considering her young age and facing a very traditional society.

"On top of this I received life skills training from the Ministry of Health and I became a peer educator at our island. So now I was working both as a youth advocate and peer educator," she says.

Erasito spent the next two years on her island home where she worked for both the Ministries of Health and Youth raising awareness about youths and sexually transmitted diseases.

"I felt obliged to be permanently based on the island because they had given me the training and I felt I should make good use of it. Other than that, once every quarter I would travel to Suva to attend the youth advisory board meetings.

"I was at the centre of what is perhaps two issues that affect youths directly which is sexually transmitted diseases and youth development. Unfortunately things didn't work out and I had to relinquish my role as peer educator," Erasito says.

In 2010 she resigned from the Ministry of Health and in between youth advisory board meetings Erasito decided to broaden her horizon by applying to be part of the Japanese government run Ship of the World Tour.

She spent three months on board the ship where she got the chance to learn more about youth development, sustainable livelihood and youth education.

"When I returned, I went back to Rotuma where I shared my experiences with other youths on the island and then it dawned to me, with all the interest shown by our youths is that this sort of information is not readily available to those back on the island," Erasito says.

Erasito is right now part of a group of Fijian youths attending the Pacific Youth Council in Suva.

They are trying to form the National Youth Council of Fiji to make it become an official part of the Pacific Youth Council after they finalise their constitution some time soon.

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