Lockdown Does Not Deter Learning For Women Of Matailobau In Naitasiri

What started off in March as face-to-face training for budding and industrious ladyentrepreneurs of Tikina Matailobau within the province of Naitasiri, has transformed into online learning through the social media platform, during this lockdown.

In April, Fiji faced a major set-back when it went through its second wave of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The health crisis really derailed major initiatives like this rural women entrepreneurial capacity building training.

However the physical lockdowns did not deter the ambitious spirit and drive of the trainers and participants to continue with the training via the social media chat platform.

The training, a partnership between the iTaukei Tust Fund Board and the Fiji National University (FNU) seeks to empower participants from the six villages within the Tikina Matailobau namely Matailobau, Nabena, Taulevu, Delaitoga, Navuniyasi and Nairukuruku, on self-sustaining entreprenuerial skillsets and knowledge in the areas of sewing, hairdressing, jewelry-making and screen printing.

The programmes’ sixty participants had successfully concluded four weeks of face to face training prior to the lockdowns.

Today, all forms of learning activities have shifted online. To facilitate this change, within every village, participants divided themselves up into the four modules of learning.

For its part, FNU arranged for the transfer of the training materials and resources like screen printing stencils and inks, sewing machines, hairdressing and jewelrymaking tools to Matailobau.

These teaching tools are currently under the custodianship of appointed women leaders in each village.

Above: Naomi Likuyameyame left and Elisa Rabaleilekutu right of Taulevu village, receiving a sewing machine being sent across by FNU trainers for their training.

The online learning exercise has allowed Suva based FNU trainers to share and upload practical videos and accompanying theory notes via the social media chat forum. Live face to face video chats has allowed demonstrative learning as well. And FNU practitioners have encouraged peer-based training as a way to share exercises, which means they can teach each other in their own dialects, thus also enhancing learning outcomes.

TTFB CEO Aisake Taito says “it is encouraging to note that we have been able to take advantage of the reach of social media during this COVID-19 lockdown ensuring that training has continued for participants from the comfort of their own homes”.

Above: Ladies take a moment from their small training bubble for a picture. Wainise Baledrokadroka (in the background), with phone in-hand receives instructions from the FNU trainer via the Facebook messenger, which she will in turn share with Melenia Gonerogo (closest to camera), as a peer-learning exercise.

FNU’s Acting Head of Department for Creative Arts, Vasiti Baledrokadroka says “it is pleasing to see the rural ladies’ progress through this online training platform showcasing how social media can be used to benefit training despite the current Covid 19 Crisis”.

Once the borders open, training will be ramped up and consolidated over two straight weeks to complete the entire four modules’ syllabus. Such training will empower women in rural areas to earn an income and become selfsufficient.