Bula to you all from the Yasawa island Fiji. Iam Ana Digogo and my friends call me “Diggo”.

I am a focal point for the LBT Sigatoka Hub and a focal point for women in sports in Sigatoka and Nadi. I am a Women’s Human rights and LGBTIQ Rights Defender. 

At the moment I work as a site attendant at the lagoon resort in the Yasawa islands, Fiji. I started as a female security officer. In high school, I joined the women’s soccer team. Even though the sport wasn’t accepted from home, especially from my mother, I continued to go to training and games not caring about getting the growling after, as long as I got to go training and play games. I would be more happy in this space because it was the only space that I felt and saw myself happy. There were moments when I would run away from a family function and from the family so that I could just be with my soccer team.

I then later joined rugby and yes, most of my soccer friends are now playing rugby as well which has made it more fun and comfortable. It was the 2 sports that I played that I found my true self, I could be myself and do as I like when I was around them. While hanging out with the community, I got to hear and learn different stories and different realities lived everyday even though I had my own challenging stories that I wanted to get out. There are times when we would just go to the games and after the games we would just hang around in town and “choke”(ask) for a dollar or more from friends or family and some would pick pockets so that we could have some money for food, drinks and smokes. We weren’t interested in going home because life on the streets was more fun and we were  free. Even though we struggled for food, clothing and even for a bath we still chose to live on the streets because this was freedom.

I remember one sunday morning I left my gf’s house in Lautoka to go back to Nadi, I met some of my bucth friends with their partners at Shirley park with their backpack, food takeaways and drinks looking for a shaded tree to sit around early in the morning. One of them started chatting and assumed that  I was from another women’s soccer team and invited me to join them. I sat there listening, conversing and wondering where they were staying, why they were in town so early in the morning, where they slept and showered, how they were surviving on the streets. Over the next few days I slept in a pavilion, outside shops and even in parks where we had turns sleeping while the others stayed guard. Food was scarce so we shared what little food we had and sneaked into another park to use an outside tap to bathe and wash our clothes. This was our life until we were told that there was a safe house in Banaras. We moved.

It was during this time that I got the opportunity to work. I started as a cleaner at a nightclub and eventually became the bar supervisor for 3 nightclubs and later another nightclub, bottleshop, wine & dine and a 7 room accommodation complex in the Coral coast, and of course, I also employed some of the most hard working people in my community who needed a job. We lived again together in a rented space, but whilst we had our independence and freedom, our neighbours still looked down on us, and we were still the brunt of everyone’s jokes and anger. I have learnt over the years that our freedom will always come at a cost.

I was invited to a DIVA for Equality workshop in Suva after playing in the Marists rugby 7’s in 2015. This was the first time I felt a heaviness in my heart and mind lift. My life long learning continued with DIVA, participating in the LBT research, the clean up campaign and community work but it wasn’t until 2018 during the Women Defend the Commons convention that I realised that this is what I’ve been wanting to know all these years, to know about myself, my rights, my LGBT rights, women’s rights and things that I can do to keep me safe from any means of violence and discrimination. That convention built me up with courage and I wanted to learn more about the work that DIVA did. I also now know that all DIVA spaces are safe and that there is always a shoulder to lean on in times of struggles and when you need a friend just to listen. What makes it very special is that they will let you talk till you get tired (that’s when everything inside you all comes out) and they will listen. They won’t let you go out of their sight without you unsatisfied. The service and the work that they do is what I admire and it is something that I would practice in any community or surroundings I live in. 

I look forward to the day when LBT people will be free, living a life free of violence, proud about who they are and about who they love. I know that we are protected under the Fiji Bill of Rights and I’d like to see that policies are developed to guide all government services, so that we are safe and protected and equally respected in the community. I wanted to share a few things that I have learnt from the moment I started following DIVA for Equality movement (1) MY Rights (women’s rights and LGBT rights)

(2) What can I do when I face discrimination, violence and what can I do to help if i see or hear about it. I’ve learned that there is a 24 hrs helpline that I can call when I need to. (3) I’ve learned that there is a space as women, lbt women, women living in poverty or disability can find help in DIVA. (4) I’ve learned a lot of movement work that DIVA does towards Equality, Gender justice, Social, Economic,Climate justice and more.(5) I’ve learned to speak up or raise my voice when needed. (6) I’ve learned to walk away from things that doesnt help me grow into a person that I want to become. (7) I’ve learned that women can do anything and many more. 

In the future I would love to see women helping other women in terms of understanding what they want and how they want to live. I would love to see more acceptance in LGBTIQ community where we can live our lives freely, the way we want it.

Vinaka. Lolomaz from the Yasawas. (Diggo)