The women attending the all female Painting and Decorating course at the APTC Fiji Campus celebrated International Women's Day by recounting their experiences as women in the trades.
APTC Painting and Decorating trainer Michael Farrugia said that his students' inspiring stories are an appropriate way "…to honour all women who have struggled and come up fighting in the face of adversity."
Ms Molly Tafen of Vanuatu said that her early attempts to enter the construction industry were rejected. "It is hard to get a break in the construction industry when you are a woman. I was told I could not have a job because I was a girl." Since enrolling with APTC, circumstances have changed for Ms Tafen. She has received an expression of interest from a Port Vila company that wants to employ her on her return to Vanuatu.
Ms Cindy Firia of the Solomon Islands said, "I am proud to be a woman in this trade. In the Solomon Islands I have an opportunity to demonstrate that I can do the work a man can do." Ms Firia considered not taking up her place in the Painting and Decorating course when men in the industry made jokes about her undertaking training. "My aunty encouraged me to be brave and make a stand. I am glad she encouraged me to do that, now I have a job ready for me in the Solomon Islands with a construction company that values having female workers."
Ms Tikosaya Ledua of Fiji also has employment in a local construction company waiting for her, when she completes her studies. This is a welcome change from her previous experience, where "…men have tended to underestimate my skills, and I have had to work harder just to prove myself."
Ms Alice Athy of Vanuatu, who is often referred to as "Aunty Alice" because of the maternal role she has adopted with the other women on the course, recalled her experiences working with 24 male colleagues. Ms Athy said, "You have to be tough to survive." She is glad to see that the women on the course are gaining dignity through this training, as well as having an opportunity to work in a male dominated trade.
"I believe that APTC has given many women a chance to be confident and see a future for themselves," said Ms Athy.
Mr Farrugia said that Ms Athy was also working to create a female program for painters in Vanuatu. "I welcome this sort of initiative that could provide women painters with some basic training. If Alice is successful I will be happy to support her any way I can. On behalf APTC, I would like to express how proud we are of our female students."