Monday, July 30, 2007


LIFE has not been easy for Litia Naitanui but it has not stopped her from doing what any normal person can do.
Litia, 45, is from Vutia, in Rewa, and is a kindergarten teacher in one of the village schools.
Although she is unable to walk properly, Litia has never let that stand in her way.
She proudly joined other people in getting qualifications from the Fiji Institute of Technology.
Whats more, she makes full use of traditional skills to weave mats.
The mats Litia weaves are only presented to the chief.
"When I was in the village school I always liked weaving mats," she said.
"We used to weave baskets and mats, so that is why at this stage I like to do mat weaving and baskets.
"I have four sisters and a brother and they all live in Suva."
She attended Lomaivuna Primary School and Lomaivuna High School, in Naitasiri, before studying secretarial studies at FIT for three years.
Litia then returned home and started teaching at the Tavuya Kindergarten School in Rewa.
"My grandmother taught me how to weave this kind of mat, which is special to Vutia," she said.
"This mat is special because the corners are different.
"It has different designs at the corners from the rest of the mat."
Litia sells the mat at times but it is not for business.
She weaved two mats during the Melanesian Arts Festival last year, with one taken by the US Embassy and the other sold.
"I do not sell mats but when a person wants to buy it, the price will be determined by the buyer," Litia said. Normally the mats can be bought for $20-$25.
"I was born physically disabled and sometimes it is hard to get things I want," she said. "When I want to go to some places it is very hard to go especially in hilly, sloppy and slippery places."
"Sometimes I encourage myself or force myself to go and get what I need and things that I want and not rely on people in helping me just because I am disabled." She is now staying with her mother in the village and in the weekdays she lives in a house provided by the school she teaches at.
Litia said life was hard when she was a young girl since there were five of them in the family and they had only a small family income.
"We faced difficulties in education. My parents sold agriculture produce to earn money, selling coconuts and root crops," she said.
"But I always helped my parents in weaving baskets, mats and then helping to sell and then from that we earned money to support our education."
She has been a kindergarten teacher for 11 years.
"I teach young girls in the village the art of weaving. Some village women come to learn as well." she said.
"I told them that I faced difficulties and financial problems when I was studying and that if they knew some of these skills like weaving mats, it would generate income for their education or for their children.
"If I can do these things with my disability, then we should not look at the disability but look at the ability that we have."
Her message is "do not judge yourself by your disability, judge yourself with what you can do".
"Some of us with disabilities are looked down on but the ability that we have I can challenge you and everybody that if I can do you can do it," she said.
She is president of the Rewa Disabled Peoples Association and while she is in Suva, visits the head office and shares the problems faced by the people in the Rewa district.
She wants to help all people with disabilities in Rewa.