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The Vanuatu Photo Project: Meet Talula & Louisa

Louisa was inspired from a young age to work with youth and children living with disabilities. Photo by Talula.

Louisa was inspired from a young age to work with youth and children living with disabilities. Photo by Talula.

Louisa, 30, grew up in the lovely settlement of Melemaat in Vanuatu with three brothers, and cousins who visited regularly.

For 10 years, her mother was the caretaker of the Vanuatu Society for People with Disability, so while growing up, Louisa and her siblings interacted with many people who used the society’s services. This sparked a desire in her to work with youth and children with disabilities.

For the past six years, Louisa has been the Housemaster at Onesua Presbyterian College. She explained, “This job allows me to educate both boys and girls on how to take responsibility, look after their dorms, be on kitchen duty, help serve meals, wash their own clothes and participate in school activities.” She also helps develop their public speaking skills to build confidence.

Through her work, Louisa realized she enjoys supporting and working with children with disabilities. She has observed how teachers interact with children living with disabilities in the classroom and reflected on incidents she has witnessed. Louisa shared a story about a young boy who was teased because of his disability, sometimes to the point where he would come home and tell his mother that he doesn’t want to go to school anymore. Louisa is outraged by such unfair and mean-spirited treatment. She exclaimed, “Where is the equality in that? Instead of helping him, they turned against him!” She feels that discrimination is even worse between children of the same gender. Louisa spoke of an incident she witnessed involving a girl with a disability being physically harassed on a bus by a group of other girls. “Where exactly is the love and equality in that?” Louisa demanded.

As she was starting to recognize this interest in working with young people with disabilities, she heard about CARE’s Young Women’s Leadership Program (YWLP). Louisa was particularly interested in learning to better support women and girls with disabilities who face violence and discrimination because of their disability. “Before, I was a leader but didn’t know exactly what I was doing,” she said.

She felt that throughout the YWLP, and especially after graduating in 2021, she had found her way from the darkness into the light. The program has empowered and supported her in becoming who she aspires to be and is inspiring others to become the best versions of themselves.

“Include me, and include all of us.”

Regardless of the obstacles, achieving gender equality within the disability community is essential to combatting violence against all women and girls. Louisa stands by this Bislama mantra, “Inkludim mi, mo inkludim yumi everiwan,” which translates to “Include me, and include all of us.” A reminder that we all count and that should always lead the way.

About the author: Talula is a University of the South Pacific student and manages the local business Eliane Passion Sewing and Designs. She is a 2020-21 YWLP graduate. Photo by Valerie Fernandez.

The Vanuatu Young Women’s Leadership Program (YWLP) is implemented by CARE in Vanuatu with the generous support of the Australian Government. The YWLP is a 12-month program which promotes the leadership of young women so they can take action to promote gender equality and eliminate violence against women and young girls in Vanuatu. Over eighty young women aged 18 to 30, including women with disabilities and diverse gender identities, have graduated from the program since it started in 2017. These graduates are now using the knowledge, skills and confidence strengthened through the YWLP to realize gender equality in their families, communities and across Vanuatu. All the young women featured in these stories, and those who captured their photographs and stories, are YWLP graduates.

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