Sole breadwinner – Mum raises five children

Seruwaia Naivaluwaqa shows her traditional handicraft items at Furnival Park in Suva during Lomaiviti Day this week. Picture: MATILDA SIMMONS

WHEN her husband passed away in 1998, Seruwaia Naivaluwaqa was left helpless at what she was going to do next.

Her husband was the sole breadwinner and she was left to look after her five children alone.

So Seruwaia, 56, did what she only knew — weave and sell traditional Fijian mats to support her children.

“I learnt the skill from an aunt back in the village; when she passed on — I had already learnt the intrinsics of weaving a mat. It’s been 18 years since then and I did not regret doing it,” she shared.

“I considered it a blessing that I was already equipped with this skill when my husband passed away.”

The Vuniivisavu, Lovoni native, said this skill supported her family financially throughout.

“Mats of Lovoni are different from other parts of Fiji, it has its unique designs, Batiki Island has its own type and so on.

“Our mat from Lovoni has its different hedges, and you can easily tell by its designs,” she described as she showed us the mat designs on her table. We met the mother during the Lomaiviti Day at Furnival Park in Suva.

Even as her traditional crafts were laid out on the table, she was sitting on the floor, weaving one of her many mats. Traditional mats are considered a luxury in Fiji as it’s a must have during traditional ceremonies.

It plays an important role in the life of an iTaukei person from birth until death — whether it’s weddings, welcoming a newborn or funeral. Special mats are provided for their sitting.

For this they are in demand always.

Average costs of a mat can go from $150 right to $800. For many Fijian mothers such as Seruwaia — the skill is treasured.

“My children’s education were all paid from my mat and other handicraft sales.

“Most of them are now married and working while some are farmers. I’m happy to be staying in the village and doing this work.

“My advice to women out there is that we are surrounded by natural resources, don’t be lazy … do something so it brings money home.

“I am witness to this,” she said. She added: “God gave us talents and gifts, don’t waste your time going around talanoa and gossiping.

“There’s a lot of things you can learn and if you want to learn ask those who know. You can survive if you have the wisdom to use your talents.”

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