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The Vanuatu Photo Project: Meet Winona & Regina

Regina runs a successful sewing business in Vanuatu. Photo by Winona.

Regina runs a successful sewing business in Vanuatu. Photo by Winona.

“Don’t give up and never lose hope. Your passion and interest in doing what you like will lead you to be a great woman and to have a successful in life," says Regina.

Regina, 21, grew up in the village of Ekipe in Vanuatu. When she was a child, her mother spent most of the time at home sewing and looking after Regina and her five siblings. Her father, originally a ship captain, was not always around.

Regina was a passionate girl, always learning and trying new things, such as painting and sewing. She attended school until she became pregnant in year 12. This was the beginning of a very challenging period in her life. At that time, she thought, “This is the end of my journey.”

But she wasn’t ready to give up on herself and her life as a woman and a mother, so in 2019, she applied for CARE’s Young Women’s Leadership Program (YWLP). She felt that the program would be a great opportunity to learn and develop new skills. Regina went through the selection process and was offered a place. While enrolled in the program, she taught at a primary school through a one-month internship. There were challenges during the program, such as transportation, related costs, and raising her child, but Regina powered through and graduated in 2020.

She wasn’t ready to give up on herself.

After completing the YWLP, she started a sewing business. Eventually, and with her parents’ help, she bought a new solar sewing machine. Regina reflected, “My child’s father was not around. Even though my parents gave me a hard time when they found out I was pregnant, they have supported us and encouraged me to enroll in as many programs as possible to learn new skills, so I can earn an income to care for my child and family.”

While she was building up her sewing business, Regina enrolled in Youth Challenge Vanuatu, where she participated in a few workshops, including a computer course. She also had the opportunity to do two internships. Regina then volunteered at the public library. She reflected on this time, “It was tiresome to stay up at night and sew, but I had to try my best as volunteering is not paid.” She added, “I am happy that my sewing skills have improved and are now on another level.”

Thanks to the success of her business, Regina can now provide for her child and family.

Despite her early doubts and the difficulties faced, the positive feedback from her parents has motivated her to be strong, to move forward and stay focused. And that is who Regina is today, holding on to her family’s care and support each day and putting everything else in God’s hands.

For all the young women out there, whose situation is similar to Regina’s, she encourages, “Don’t give up and never lose hope. Your passion and interest in doing what you like will lead you to be a great woman and to have a successful in life.”

About the author: Winona is a proud graduate of the YWLP 2019-20. She previously worked at CARE in Vanuatu as a human resources administration officer until June 2021. 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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