LIFE, especially for women in a modern society, is full of challenges. Few chose to meet them while many tend to run away from them.
Pushpa Wati is one of those few who decided to grab the bull by the horns and meet the challenges head on.
The 49-year-old of Ba was recently appointed the president of the Suva Table Tennis Association and she said she was ready to face the obstacles that would come her way during her reign at the helm of what is considered a minor sport in Fiji.
She said her biggest challenge would be changing its minor status to major, which would be difficult but not impossible.
But that is the great thing about vision. Without it, we would have no aim or direction.
So how did Wati's life turn in the direction towards table tennis?
"I actually chose this as an activity for my son but after watching him play a few competitions from the sidelines, I also took interest and tried my hand at it," she said.
"That was in 2004, my son, Christopher Lal, had just completed his Class Eight exams and I wanted him involved in something during the long school break that would keep him away from trouble and also keep him safe."
Since then, Lal went on to win many competitions, tournaments and even national championships, however Wati remained a social player.
"My son's achievements inspired me to continue playing but not fully competitively."
Where do the challenges come in? Firstly, Wati's profession. She was a schoolteacher and she encouraged her sonto continue playing during the height of his academic years in high school.
This did not sit well with the other teachers, who considered a woman's role in society, especially a teacher's, to be that of helping children excel academic wise.
"There was a lot of criticism back then because I always encouraged my son to continue his sporting career.
"He would miss school often, sometimes for even up to a month so that he can compete in tournaments.
"I stood up to the criticism and when I look back now, I am glad I faced the criticism rather than give in to it."
Another challenge — she is a single mother.
After separation from her husband, Wati juggled parenting and teaching. Now, add being president of the STTA.
"Time management. Using the time wisely and dividing it well among the responsibilities and roles it has helped me a lot.
"I give emphasis when and where needed and this has allowed me to perform my roles as a parent, a teacher and now as president better."
And what good are challenges if you don't get something out it. Achievements and accomplishments are fruits of your efforts in overcoming obstacles.
"There are two major accomplishments in the sport that I am really proud of.
"The first is that I am one of the only two national umpires for the sport in the country.
"This has allowed me to officiate in local and overseas tournaments.
"My second biggest accomplishment is being appointed the president of the STTA.
"For as long as I remember, this has been a male dominated sport and I think I may be the only woman that has ever held this post."
Wati is also a qualified coach and loves working with children or newcomers.
"I got a coaching certificate because I love to teach the sport to new players. Especially children because they are very easy to teach."
With the New Year and her term as president fully coming into effect, Wati is confident of continuing the development process to ensure they increase their player-base.
She said since she came into the sport, she has seen it become more inclusive and she said she would love to continue that.
"Since I started in table tennis, I have seen more children compete, more players going overseas for competitions, some outreach programs conducted in villages and the best of them all was our clinics in disabled schools around the capital city.
"This saw some disabled players — deaf players come and make a name for themselves in the sport."
Wati also wants to see more females take up the sport from this year onwards.
"I want to see our development program grow from strength to strength.
"This would become evident if our players were to increase and to do that we would need to conduct more clinics and outreach programs.
"As the new president of the STTA, I would like to see more children compete, more of the disabled players come and compete with us and most of all, I would like to see more girls and women take up the sport.
"Table tennis is still considered a male dominated sport but women have the opportunity to come forward and balance it out.
"We have the tables and the equipment, this is not a contact sport and women will feel comfortable playing the sport like I do," she said.
While Wati continues to break barriers and overcome obstacles, we can take queue from her and try and implement the same concept in the challenges we face.
The new year has already started and we can't be too sure about what the future holds for us but one thing we can do is brace ourselves to meet whatever comes our way — head on — just like Wati does.