Stories of Girls’ Resistance


“I think when you see the same kind of injustices all your life in different forms, you are automatically geared to do something about it. My resistance in my early years was in the form of speaking up, saying my opinion regardless of what people thought. Although it felt good, sometimes the very people I wanted to influence and who would be my greatest allies became enemies because of my methods. Later as I matured, I found that even holding your opinion and working out a strategy or plan would be more sustainable and allow you to get a lot more people to join. That’s why for many years after university, I just learned. I worked with the communities, observed, and would often listen and take notes so that when I make the move to resist, it would be sustainable and with greater impact than ever before.”

Haitelenisia’s Story

On the main island of Tongatapu in Tonga, is a little village by the sea, on the eastern side of the island called Talafoʻou. With a population of 500, this is the place Haitelenisia or Sia, as she is known to those around her, calls home. And it was in a one-bedroom shed made of makeshift second-hand where her love for stories grew. Their home growing up might not have been much to others, she says, but it was filled with love. Under the light of a small lantern, her mother would lie next to her and read her stories in English. Her mother would also go on to write a journal for Sia until she turned eight years old, and then passed the practice on to Sia herself. “It has been a sort of best friend, saving grace, and wealth of memories for me to write and keep a journal,” she says. In later years, the journal turned into a blog and now Sia writes on social media, documenting hundreds of stories of her people. Her immensely popular page, Ordinary Tongan Lives, has a following of 54,000 with many posts, done as a series to capture stories in detail, amassing over 200 comments and 400 shares, from people within Tonga and in the diaspora. But Sia’s journey advocating against injustices, which you can see how she facilitates in supporting people to tell their stories in a nuanced way in their own words, was not always welcomed cordially. She recalls times when she would get angry witnessing people being unkind, unjust, and putting others down. “I absolutely hated it and would even fight for others who were victims of this. My hope and what I thought was the best long-term strategy of addressing this was through education.” She learned, she listened and she strategised on how to resist unfair systems and the people upholding it, so she could create transformative change. She moved back to the same village she grew up in with her own family. She says, her village fosters in her a sense of caring for one’s neighbours and community, and deep values of love and respect which were imbedded in her when she was growing up. “When there was a family funeral, a wedding, building a house and so forth, we would all come together as a community and help cook, build, and contribute to the family during those times. That sense of community has contributed so much to why I love serving and working with the communities throughout the country. I brought my family back there so my daughter could be nurtured in the same community with the same values that had helped to make me who I am today. My widowed mother also lives there so part of being home is to help care for her when she needs the help.